Britain for cigarettes in plain packets to check sales

September 21st, 2008 - 12:02 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Sep 21 (IANS) As Britain marches on to make itself smoking-free, new schemes are on the way to pipe out the smoke. The one that has the tobacco industry worried is the move to force tobacco firms to sell cigarettes in plain, unbranded packets.The department of health is considering outlawing the use of logos, colours and graphics on packets and requiring them to be sold in plain packaging. Officials say it will strip cigarettes of their glamorous image and reduce the numbers of young people taking up the habit.

Tobacco companies fear that introducing the plain packaging would prompt many smokers to abandon the premium brands such as Marlboro and Benson and Hedges, which cost around six pounds ($11) a pack, and instead switch to cheaper makes costing 3.5-4 pounds.

The move will hurt the industry deeply. As cigarette advertising is banned in Britain, packs have become more elaborate as they are the best way manufacturers can promote their brands and distinguish them from rival products.

The latest issue of Tobacco Journal International reports that “according to analysts from Morgan Stanley, if generic packaging becomes a legal requirement in the UK, not only could it have a domino effect on other markets, but it could also have an adverse impact on cigarette brand equity (and) could result in considerably reduced profits”.

David Adelman of Morgan Stanley told The Observer: “If plain packaging were adopted in the UK, some other nations would most likely mandate (it) as well.”

The health department is also considering banning cigarettes from public displays in shops, outlawing packs of 10 and getting rid of vending machines.

The ban on smoking in public places, bars and restaurants since last year has seen a major reduction in the number of smokers. The cause has now been taken up by supermarkets and other organisations that offer free consultations on giving up smoking and community awards for new non-smokers.

Facing a smoky reality, tobacco companies are coming with excuses against the government’s moves, saying they will lead to a rise in cigarette smuggling, more counterfeiting of tobacco products and will threaten small retailers’ livelihoods.

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