The UK-based Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association (TMA) yesterday published data showing how standardized tobacco packaging is failing in the UK.

The TMA said that while reducing smoking levels had been a key objective behind the introduction of standardized packaging in May 2017, the evidence indicated that there had been an upturn in smoking levels in recent months.

‘The Smoking Toolkit Study has found that on a three-month rolling average, from December 2017 to March 2018, smoking rates in England were higher than for the same time last year before plain packaging was fully introduced,’ the TMA said in a press note.

‘The TMA estimates that if the same effect was seen across the UK, there would be approximately 350,000 more adult smokers in March 2018 than a year before plain packaging was fully introduced.

‘This reflects international evidence that plain packaging doesn’t deter smoking. France introduced plain packaging in January 2016. The French Health Minister, Agnes Buzyn, recently admitted that: “Plain packaging did not contribute to the decrease of official tobacco sales”.’

At the same time, the TMA said, standardized tobacco packs had delivered a huge benefit to criminals because counterfeiting a single pack design was easier, cheaper and more profitable than was counterfeiting different designs.

‘Counterfeit plain packaged tobacco products have already been found across the country,’ the TMA said.

‘The Government was warned this would happen by the tobacco industry, law enforcement and intellectual property experts.’

Meanwhile, the TMA said that new polling it had conducted during the past two months had found that smokers were being pushed towards the illegal market by plain packaging. Over a quarter of UK smokers said that the measure had made them more likely to buy untaxed tobacco, the equivalent of 1.9 million people across the UK.

“The recent evidence shows that plain packaging appears to be failing in the UK like everywhere it has been introduced,” said Giles Roca, director general of the TMA.

“It appears not to be delivering the health outcomes it was claimed it would bring while at the same time is proving to be a boon to the black market by encouraging smokers to buy from illicit sources.

“The Government should recognise that plain packaging is failing and undertake a full and immediate review of this policy.”  

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