It is not a big secret that UK Public Health Department lead by Andy Burnham has promised to make 50 percent of adult smokers across the nation give up their habit within a decade. Their plan includes requiring tobacco companies to pack their products in plain packages.
However, this daring initiative has many influential opponents, including UK Business secretary and all major tobacconists. British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco, and Philip Morris International have all declared their disagreement with the plan, arguing that it would hurt their businesses and make it easier to falsify their products.
The officials have promised to consider the plan and all the potential consequences of requiring black-and-white packaging for tobacco products. Meanwhile they have implemented other measures that would contribute to the intention to halve the smoking rates in the country by 2020.
The reanimation of plan to demand plain packaging was declared shortly after the leading tobacco company in UK, Imperial Tobacco revealed its 2009 Earnings statement and reported about a 1 percent growth of cigarette sales in 2009. This is the first growth in sale volumes after four years of persistent drops.
At the same time, the loose tobacco market segment also showed an impressive performance, selling 4.650 tons of tobacco, a growth of 21 percent from 2008. This is the highest-ever rise in that segment in the history of UK tobacco market and the first rise in the last 40 years.
Industry experts admit that there are two major factors behind the rise, and both of them are related to difficult economic situation: firstly, in order to cut their expenses, people prefer staying in the country rather than going abroad on holidays, and thus, they don’t stock up with less expensive cigarettes selling in Europe; secondly, smokers turn to fine cut rolling tobacco, as it is much cheaper to roll own cigarettes than to purchase branded ones.
Tobacco companies have objected that black-and-white packages could not prevent teenagers from taking up cigarettes, in case they want to do it. Imperial Tobacco spokesman declared that there is no reliable data proving that adolescents try smoking because of brightly-colored tobacco packaging. Therefore, obliging all brands to be packed in identical plain packs would contribute only to further growth of illegal sales and spoil the government’s efforts to crack down tobacco smuggling into the country
Imperial’s major rival, British American Tobacco as well stated that the officials’ intention to consider the plain packaging plan provides a hand of help not to smokers, but to criminal groups, as it would make it much easier for the criminals to manufacture or import illicit products and selling them on the black market.
Another important player in UK tobacco market, Philip Morris International went one step further by launching a website www.plain-packaging.com, in order to promote their campaign to oppose the implementation of black-and-white generic packaging in the country, saying it would not help reducing the number of smokers, but on the contrary, increase the rates, as more people would turn to illicit market.
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