Cost of tobacco

I READ your article ‘Sniffing out the town’s illegal tobacco trade’, published 21st May 2014 with interest.

Members of the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), which represents 5,500 independent forecourts, are increasingly concerned about the amount of illicit tobacco on our streets and the direct impact it has on their businesses.

A survey carried out of PRA members earlier this year has shown that 73% believe that illicit trade hurts their business and decreases their annual sales revenue with almost two thirds believing that the problem is getting worse. Retailers are also increasingly opposed to Government proposals to introduce plain packaging of tobacco products and think it will harm honest retailers because it will fuel illicit trade and people will buy their cigarettes from the black market. We stand shoulder to shoulder with Priti Patel MP in her campaign to oppose plain packaging and defend the interests of small retailers.

Our contemporaries in Australia, the only country in the world to have introduced plain packaging, show these concerns are well founded. The Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) says 70% of retailers have been negatively affected by plain packaging, with 67% saying that the growth of the black market has had an impact on their business since plain packaging was introduced. During the same period, the sale of illegal branded cigarettes has increased by 154%, according to KPMG. Tobacco consumption has remained constant.

The more retailers hear about the impact of plain packaging in Australia the more opposed they are to seeing it introduced in the UK. In the Government’s own review Sir Cyril Chantler stated that evidence from Australia is ‘modest and has limitations’.

Retailers are unanimous in their belief that the Government should fully evaluate the Australian experiment before implementing plain packaging here.

Brian Madderson

Petrol Retailers Association