Belfast Telegraph

Tobacco firm raps packaging proposals

By Holly Williams

Embassy maker Imperial Tobacco yesterday slammed UK plans to force firms to sell cigarettes in plain packaging and claimed the move would fuel illicit trade.

The group said Government proposals announced on Monday for generic packaging would make it easier for counterfeits and smugglers.

Bristol-based Imperial added that there was “no credible evidence that young people start smoking or adult smokers continue to smoke because of tobacco packaging”.

“We remain strongly opposed to the plain packaging of tobacco products,” it said.

The UK would be the first country to introduce a plain packaging rule, which could see current designs scrapped in favour of plain packs with the brand name in text.

But the Department of Health stressed the plans were at a very early stage.

Health Secretary Andy Burnham outlined the potential move as part of a raft of measures to halve the number of smokers in England from 21% of the population to one in 10 in the next 10 years.

The Government also hopes to cut the estimated 200,000 young people who start smoking every year.

Imperial today said in a trading update that the UK cigarette market had increased by 1% in 2009, with 45.5bn cigarettes sold, while the fine cut tobacco market grew by 21% to 4,650 tonnes.

Its average share of the market remained largely steady at 45.2%.

The group's brands include JPS, Davidoff, Lambert & Butler and Golden Virginia.

Around 1,100 people are employed at the Gallaher cigarette factory in Ballymena, owned by Japan Tobacco. Brands include Camel, Silk Cut and Benson & Hedges.

Belfast Telegraph