Plain packs for cigarettes ‘do not hit economy’

Plain cigarette packaging does not lead to an increase in illicit trade or a loss of revenue to the State, research carried out in Australia, the first country to introduce the packaging, has found.

Ireland has come under pressure from German MEPs and business groups to abandon plans to be the first EU member to introduce uniform packaging.

It emerged last month that a group of 27 MEPs, mainly German, wrote to Taoiseach Enda Kenny claiming the plans would “open the door” to illicit trade and “restrict” fair competition.

The Taxpayers Association of Europe, a lobby group, also warned the Taoiseach that Ireland’s plain packaging tobacco plans would result in extensive tax losses and would pose a threat to the State’s finances.

However, a study for Melbourne’s Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer found “no evidence for industry arguments against the packaging”.

The research, published in the online journal BMJ Open, found the packs “don’t hurt small retailers; flood the market with very cheap cigarettes; or boost the trade in illicit tobacco”.

The authors of the study quizzed adult smokers on the phone about their tobacco purchasing habits a year before the plain packaging policy was introduced in 2011; during roll-out in 2012; and one year after implementation.

The researchers wanted to know if there had been any changes in the proportion of people buying from supermarkets rather than small independent retailers, and whether smokers had switched to very cheap cigarettes sourced from Asia or illicit unbranded tobacco.

In all, responses were received from just under 2,000 smokers. They found no change in the places smokers usually bought their tobacco from between 2011 and 2013.

“Almost two thirds of respondents said they bought their tobacco from supermarkets in 2011 (65.4%) and in 2013 (65.7%). Similarly, there was no fall in the proportion who bought from small independent retailers: just over 9% said they bought their tobacco in these outlets in 2012 and just over 11% said they did so in 2013.

“Use of low-cost Asian brands was low, and scarcely changed between 2011, when it was 1.1%, and 2013, when it was 0.9%,” the research found.

“Use of illicit unbranded tobacco didn’t increase either — it was 2.3% in 2011, and 1.9% in 2013.”

In 2013, just 2.6% of cigarette smokers said they had bought one or more packs that did not comply with the new regulations — and so may have been contraband — within the preceding three months. Just 1.7% said they had bought from informal sources, such as a market stall or the back of a van.

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

Email Updates

Receive our lunchtime briefing straight to your inbox

More in this Section

€160k for ex garda forced to retire

Brendan Howlin aims to double Labour Dáil seats

Sister of Cork synthetic drug victim offers to help HSE

Residents demand Cork bus lane be scrapped due to accidents


Breaking Stories

Gardaí put up posters at scene of Cork shooting appealing for information on Aidan O'Driscoll murder

Leading consultant dismisses 'scare story' about families leaving elderly in hospitals

Unapproved landing of British military plane at Shannon Airport sparks diplomatic row

Leaders Questions: TDs debate Bus Eireann, Brexit and hospital overcrowding in the Dáil

Lifestyle

Top tips from Ireland's experts that will help you along in life

How to educate our youth about pornography addiction and dangers

MAKING CENTS: P60 is invaluable way of checking your credits

More From The Irish Examiner