Sunday 20th May 2018 marks the first anniversary of the introduction of plain packaging of tobacco products in the UK and the ban on small tobacco packs (packs with less than 20 cigarettes or hand rolling with less than 30 grams).
The Tobacco Retailers’ Alliance (TRA), the group that represents tens of thousands of independent tobacco retailers across the UK, has conducted a survey of retailers across the UK, including Scotland and Northern Ireland, to find out their views and understand the scale of the impact of such changes on their trading.
The key findings based on more than 250 responses show that:
• 58% strongly agree or agree that they are aware of fake (counterfeit) plain packaged tobacco products being sold in their local area
• 80% of responding retailers said that the ban on small packs of tobacco has reduced their footfall
• 50% of responding retailers said that their footfall has fallen between 20% and 30% due to the ban on small packs of tobacco with the average being 27%.
• 72% strongly agree or agree that there is more illegal or very cheap tobacco sold in their local area than before plain packaging was introduced.
• 91% strongly agree or agree that the Government should undertake a full review of tobacco policies and assess the impact on small tobacco retailers; only 2% disagree
• 73% of respondents said that the illegal tobacco trade is preventing them from improving their shop or hiring more staff
• 67% strongly disagree or disagree that there should be a licensing system for tobacco retailers
The survey shows the scale of the cumulative effect of the tobacco control legislation on small and independent retailers up and down the country, it also comes as law enforcement agencies across the UK have made repeated discoveries of fake plain package tobacco products. Respondents also said that fake cigarettes are sold in, for example, ice cream vans, and some had reported as much as 50% decline in footfall.
The National Spokesperson for the Tobacco Retailers’ Alliance, Mr Suleman Khonat commenting on the wider implications of the survey results said: “It is clear that the impact of plain packaging and the ban on small packs have had a hugely damaging impact on independent retailers across the country. Plain packaging has simply made it easier for criminals to introduce fake packs taking away legitimate trade whilst the small pack ban has further damaged trade by hitting footfall and incidental spend. This is double whammy of woe cooked up by the health lobbyists hitting independent retailers whilst the government simply chose to ignore all the warnings that such measures would have this impact.
“The governments in Westminster, as well as in the devolved nations, should realise that the consequences of ineffective legislation are far reaching and often damage livelihoods of the very hardworking legitimate small retailers. It’s clear the retailers are telling us, and what is apparent from the survey, is a different picture to what the public health officials and ministers are wanting us to believe. It’s time Government listened to the retail sector rather than the shrill voices of the professional health lobby groups who call for ever more draconian measures.
“The Government needs to reconsider these measures not least given that they were warned of the potential negative consequences. It’s clear that both plain packaging and the small pack ban are failing and we should use our departure from EU and the opportunities presented by Brexit to reverse these measures.
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Notes to editors
– The survey was carried out online and by post in May 2018
– More information about the TRA can be found at http://the-tra.org.uk
– TRA’s Dee Sedani delivers his verdict on the impact of plain packaging
– The TRA is funded by the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association through its member companies – British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco Limited and Gallaher Limited (a member of the Japan Tobacco Group of Companies).