British American Tobacco (BAT) has told RN that it remains committed to supporting retailers following last week’s vote to implement plain packaging in May 2016.

The House of Commons vote saw Labour, Lib Dems and 122 Conservative MPs unite to push through a bill that had two days previously been passed by a Delegated Legislation committee.

While prime minister David Cameron and chancellor George Osborne voted in favour of the measure, despite never publicly backing it, home secretary Theresa May and foreign secretary Philip Hammond were among a number of high profile conservatives whose votes were notably absent.

Retailers reacted with dismay to the decision by parliament, with much of the controversy centring on the lack of House of Commons debate before MPs voted. Dan Cock of Premier Whitstone Village Stores described it as a “mockery of representation” while Amit Patel of Belvedere News Food and Wine dismissed it as a “tactical move” prior to the election.

BAT reacted quickly with a message to retailers that the company would continue to invest in support for independents prior to, during and after the implementation of plain packaging. “Our experience as the market leader in Australia makes us ideally placed to use the lessons from that market in the UK and help grow our retailers’ businesses,” said Ron Ridderbeekx, head of corporate and regulatory affairs for the company.

In a plain packaged world, customers will look to retailers for product knowledge and quality service

“Right now the key thing is to ensure a broad product range and good availability,” he added. “In a plain packaged world, customers will look to retailers for product knowledge and quality service.”

Mr Ridderbeekx also thanked retailers who’d been involved in campaigning against the measure.

As RN reported two weeks ago, the department of health expects plain packaging to cut every retailer’s tobacco revenue by £550,000 over ten years, amounting to a total hit of more than £27bn to the channel.

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