Cigarettes in Plain Packaging:

A double whammy for the Treasury (and the trade)

I continue to be very angry at Andrew Lansley’s intrusive and prescriptive approach to cigarette packaging.  He says that he wants a consultation on the issue, but at the same time he supports the “Plain Packaging Protects” campaign.

I object first because there is no evidence that this statement is true.  A cigarette from a plain pack is no safer or more dangerous than one from a branded pack.  He is assuming that plain packs will reduce consumption, but I have seen no evidence to support the idea.

I object secondly because of his hypocrisy and cynicism in pretending to call for a consultation when he has clearly made up his mind.

But I object most of all because this is a profoundly anti-libertarian, illiberal move which defies the fundamental right to free speech.

All the usual caveats: I personally hate smoking, and I wish everyone would give up.  I know all about the health risks.  But I recognise that a quarter of the people I represent choose to smoke, despite the fact that 99.9% of them are perfectly well aware of the dangers.  Free people have a right to do dangerous things, whether it’s mountaineering or hang-gliding or bungee-jumping.  I don’t choose to do any of those things, but I defend the freedom of those who do.

The industry makes the point that plain packs will be a field-day for counterfeiters.  The bad guys are quite clever at copying branded packs, but plain packs will be so much easier.  This will increase the already worrying level of counterfeit (and therefore more dangerous) cigarettes, which also deprive the Treasury of substantial revenues.

But there is another point that I have not yet seen aired in the debate.  Even if we mandate plain packaging in the UK, branded packs will be available elsewhere in the world.  I don’t claim to understand smokers’ psychology, but I suspect that getting hold of branded packs will become a status symbol (a bit like GB plates on cars fifty years ago).  Cigarettes are often shared — wouldn’t you rather hand round a golden pack of Benson & Hedges, rather than a nameless grey austerity pack?  Perhaps branded packs will sell under-the-counter at a premium.

So now there will be a two-pronged attack on Treasury tobacco revenues (and by the same token on the turnover of legitimate cigarette retailers).  First from counterfeiters whose business will boom.  And second from legal and illegal imports of cigarettes from countries with branded packs.  And all in the hope of health benefits which may never materialise.

Smokers have suffered enough.  They are one of the few remaining groups against whom it is legal to discriminate.  They have rights too.  And it is up to all of us to come to their defence.  When Lansley is finished with the smokers — he’ll come after the drinkers next.

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12 Responses to Cigarettes in Plain Packaging:

  1. DaveP says:

    The government is already coming after the drinkers, with taxes rising faster than inflation and minimum pricing being advocated. Look at the big increases in the sale of illicit and sometimes dangerous booze. God help the sheeple if we want the occasional tipple to drown out the sorrow of living in what has become a seriously sad country.

  2. “Free people have a right to do dangerous things…..I defend the freedom of those who do.”

    So presumably you support legalising cannabis and ecstasy, and defend the right of people to use these?

    • rfhmep says:

      I certainly think there is a debate to be had about whether decriminalisation would reduce harm and reduce consumption, by taking profit and glamour out of the illicit drugs trade. We’ve been losing “The War on Drugs” for years.

      • DaveP says:

        Cannot agree with you more. The war on drugs can never be won, especially as the amounts of money involved in the illegal side of it are so vast, the whole system is corrupted, from the police up. I have seen this first hand.

      • David C says:

        Quite so Roger. You should be a bit bolder!

  3. Charles says:

    Plain packaging and hiding tobacco products is meant to stop chldren taking up smoking, but youngsters get their first cigarettes from their friends and not from shops. It is also illegal for shops to sell to anybody under, 18 so what’s the point?

  4. patnurse says:

    The point is it is about “Denormalisation” of the consumer and as Lansley said, it’s about driving the Tobacco Industry out of Britain. That’s why the industry is being stripped off its trademarks. “The children” is just the excuse because anyone with a lifetime’s experience of smoking knows that packaging has nothing to do with kids starting smoking. In fact because of this nonsense, Children will be far greater danger today than anytime since the 1960s when restrictions began.

    Talk about social regression.

  5. Gary Rickard says:

    Makes you cough, makes you smell, makes you poor and makes you die.

    If someone really wants to smoke, selling cigarettes in a plain packet won’t make a blind bit of difference.

    Nanny just can’t help herself. There are more important things that the government should attend to than this.

  6. Mike Spilligan says:

    I have yet to see any comment concerning where the missing revenue will come from – £9 to £10 billions p.a. in the unlikely event of everyone giving up. Osborne gets highly agitated about a quarter of a billion, and I wonder if Lansley has discussed that aspect with him.

  7. Lola says:

    Im a 53 yr old female smoker, have smoked since I was 16 and I enjoy a cigarette, despite all the health warnings, scaremongering and ‘Leper Syndrome’. My choice, my life and no amount of plain packaging or silly ideas like that would make me want to stop. Yes, you heard me right – I have NO desire to stop, because I enjoy smoking a ciggy, (i do choke at the price of them) and I recently had a health check at the docs. He doesn’t know I smoke, and yet he was very pleased when my PFT test (lung function) came back better than normal for a NON SMOKER of my age. My cholesterol was 4.2 apparently the lowest result the surgery has ever had, Yippee, BP normal.
    I am fed up of hearing about smoking bans, tobacco price increases, and plain packaging etc. etc. If everyone who wanted to really quit and actually DID, where does the Government think all the revenue is going to come from? The NHS is already overrun with obese patients – imagine if everyone quit ciggys? People will eat themselves to death! The average size in the UK for a female NOW is a size16!!!! Bring back freedom of CHOICE, smoking and non-smoking establishments would be a start, and stop voting for these out of touch numbskulls, whom personally, I would’nt trust to sit the right way on a toilet……

  8. Jen E. says:

    Packaging will not make a difference in the amount of people who smoke cigarettes. Larger warnings from the surgeon general could, or maybe more public service announcements.

  9. Deepti says:

    Undertaking of eco-friendly initiatives has always been a priority for Uflex Ltd. The company also uses Green MEG for ploy condensation process and also gas based power generation. Infact all its packaging products are eco-friendly as they do not make any items which has the use of such items that make their products non-eco-friendly

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