News item

Standardised tobacco packs should be introduced without delay

A picture of cigarettesThe Trading Standards Institute (TSI) welcomes proposals to standardise tobacco packaging as the next logical and necessary step to help save lives.

TSI has previously expressed support for a range of tobacco control measures where there has been evidence to demonstrate that regulatory interventions are necessary and proportionate to improve public health and protect children from harm.

TSI’s chief executive Ron Gainsford said: “The harm to public health from tobacco use is so great that every possible means of reducing this harm should be considered.
“The evidence is sufficient to support implementation of standardised packaging. For many years, trading standards professionals have played a leading and influential role in tobacco control and we, at TSI, believe the UK should follow the lead of Australia and proceed with legislation as soon as feasible after the consultation is concluded.
“Delays cost lives.  Smoking still accounts for the majority of preventable deaths nationally.
“The UK is the standard bearer for tobacco control in Europe and where we lead others will follow.  This gives us added responsibility to proceed with plain packaging sooner rather than later.”

TSI rejects some of the most common arguments against plain packaging:
•       Standardised packaging would adversely impact on tobacco manufacturers.  There is a strong case to suggest that standardised packaging will reduce rather than increase manufacturers’ costs as the need to refresh and revise brands and branded packaging will be removed.  TSI conceded that manufacturers will lose the opportunity to present their products attractively and target different audiences, including young people – this is, however, the whole point of the policy.
•       Standardised packaging will be easier to counterfeit.  Tobacco products are already easy to counterfeit and TSI is not aware of any evidence, or convinced by any arguments, which suggest that the introduction of plain packaging would lead to an increase in counterfeiting.  Covert safety markings will still be used in standardised packaging to helps authorities distinguish them from counterfeits.
•       Standardised packaging will increase the smuggled tobacco market.  Since 2000 successive UK Governments have implemented a cross-government anti-smuggling strategy, including tough measures to force tobacco manufacturers to control their supply chains and the strategy has been highly successful in reducing the size of the illicit trade from 21% and rising in 2000 to 10% by 2009-10 for cigarettes and from 60% and rising to 46% of handrolled tobacco.  The introduction of graphic warnings in the UK in 2008-9 made tobacco products significantly less attractive to smokers yet the illicit trade continued to decline in line with the pre-existing trend.  TSI believes that smokers are unlikely to increase their foreign travel simply because the logos and colours on their tobacco products have disappeared.
To address the legitimate concerns of small retailers about the illicit trade in tobacco TSI  recommends that the UK government should introduce low cost licensing of retailers.

DATE: 15 August 2012

Notes for Editors:

The full TSI response to the Government consultation on standardised packaging of tobacco products will be available here

For further information or to arrange an interview please contact Irja Howie at TSI press office on 08456089430 / 07780675815 or

Trading Standards Institute (TSI)
TSI is a training and membership organisation that has represented the interests of the Trading Standards profession since 1881 nationally and internationally.  We aim to raise the profile of the profession while working towards fairer, better informed and safer consumer and business communities.
TSI’s members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services in local authorities and in businesses.