I’ve said it before and I will say it many times between now and the free vote that MPs will be having in April; putting cigarettes into plain packaging is unnecessary, illogical and plain nonsense.

With retailers preparing to go dark from April 6, and with products already behind screens in larger stores, the move to introduce standardised packaging doesn’t make sense.

Even cabinet ministers have expressed their concerns at the plan to introduce legislation ahead of the General Election in May, with tobacco sold in plain packs from May 2016.

Foreign secretary Philip Hammond has warned that the scheme could lead to a rise in the smuggling of illicit cigarettes, depriving the treasury of revenue or leading them to purchase more dangerous counterfeits, while more than 100 Conservative MPs are planning to vote no when the measure is put to them in the next few weeks.

paul baxter plain packs
Paul Baxter holding the NFRN protest t-shirt

So they should. Like many, the NFRN has repeatedly warned the Government that plain packs will take control from a market of responsible retailers to one that comprises a wholly unscrupulous criminal fraternity.

Counterfeit cigarettes are a huge and growing problem and standardised packaging will make this even worse.

What’s more, where is the evidence from Australia to show that plain packaging has worked? Recently published data from the country has revealed that since plain packs were introduced in 2012 there has been no statistically significant change in smoking rates and plenty of evidence pointing to a flood of counterfeit cigarettes.

The NFRN believes that every piece of legislation that the Government introduces should come on the back of rigorous evidence and with plain packaging this is simply not the case.

So we and our members will be campaigning loudly against plain packaging over the coming weeks and with a General Election looming, MPs will be wise to listen to their local shopkeeper before deciding which way to vote. 

And you can play your part. We are all in favour of legislation that stops young people smoking, but plain packaging would be disastrous for the Government’s purse strings and to public health as it will simply steer smokers towards smuggled or more dangerous counterfeit cigarettes.

Last week Paul Baxter joined hundreds of independent retailers gathered in Westminster to rally against plain packs. Here’s what happened.