Manufacturer claims that plain packaging laws are boosting the illicit tobacco trade have been denied by multiple government bodies.

Steve Wilkins, JTI anti-illegal trade operations director told Retail Express that “counterfeiting is increasing significantly” and said the law change “is the counterfeiter’s charter” because they now only have to copy one design. Wilkins also reported that this growth of illicit trade is costing honest retailers their customers.

Satul Parekh recently sold his Londis store due to the impact of nearby illicit trade, citing up to £5,000 per week in lost revenue. Parekh said plain packaging is making worse, “People nearby selling it illegally are making £2-£3 per pack now, even when below RRP. It’s cheaper than ten years ago.”

A P&H survey found 42% of retailers feel the changes will boost the illicit trade. Mehmet Guzel from Simply Fresh in Bethnal Green said, “Plain packaging will make it easier for illicit traders and suppliers, we haven’t seen an impact yet.”

A spokesperson from HMRC responded to the industry’s claims stating, “HMRC have seen no evidence to suggest the introduction of TPD will have a significant impact on the overall size of the UK illicit market.” However, they suggested it would change the fraud “mechanics” and the illicit market “composition.”

Islington trading standards officer Doug Love told Retail Express, “I don’t think it will make much difference. In some ways it will help differentiate between UK and foreign stock. With counterfeiting, they are so good already that unless you know what you are looking for it’s incredibly difficult.”

Do it: report illicit tobacco sales near your store by calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111