This is the content of my letter that I sent last week to the civil servants asking for feedback on their ideas for tobacco packaging changes in the UK.
Retaining the status quo on tobacco packaging is the best option for effective long term tobacco control in the UK
My company specialises in energising independent retailers in the news and convenience market in the UK.
These local businesses rely heavily on tobacco to generate footfall and for cash flow and profit purposes. They generally comply with tobacco legislation and make very low profits out of handling tobacco products responsibly.
Most retailers share your desire to improve public health and they comply with regulation on the sale of tobacco. This is time consuming but there is widespread consumer desire to buy tobacco products and most local retailers want to meet this demand rather than send shoppers elsewhere.
Small shopkeepers have lots of rules and regulations to follow as they sell a very wide range of products and services. They need less red tape, not more.
Introducing standardised packaging would put the responsible legal supply chain at risk. The worse you make tobacco look in store, the more attractive you will make illegal supply alternatives.
The UK’s many measures to discourage young people from taking up smoking, to encourage people to give up smoking and to reduce people’s exposure to smoke from tobacco products are underpinned by the responsible retailing of tobacco by independent shopkeepers.
The more that you denormalise sales through the legitimate retail channel, the more attractive you make the illegal trade. There is also a serious risk that more entry-level retailers will be encouraged to break the rules in order to survive against intense competition.
Independent shopkeepers already have difficult jobs to do. They have put their own and their families capital at risk and are open to widespread competition. Their efforts support the successful tobacco control policies that you have introduced. Weakening this channel will weaken future tobacco control.
Please keep the status quo. If you would like any more detailed information, please get in touch.