United Kingdom - cigarette makers oppose plain packaging..

February 6, 2010 - Included in Health Secretary Andy Burnham's pledge to help half of Britain's smokers quit by 2020 involves a ban on branded cigarette packaging.

Imperial Tobacco, Philip Morris and British American Tobacco have all said they strongly oppose plain packaging both on business grounds and on the encouragement plain packs would give to counterfeiters.

The government has said that it would "carefully consider" the case for plain tobacco packaging as part of its plans to halve the number of smokers in the UK in the next 10 years. United Kingdom - halve the number of smokers by end of decade..)

The revival of the plain packaging argument came as Imperial Tobacco posted a trading update which revealed that cigarette sales in the UK grew by 1% in 2009, to 45.5bn cigarettes - first rise in cigarette consumption for four years. (Imperial Tobacco Group - Interim Management Statement..)

The fine cut tobacco market, meanwhile, grew 21% to 4,650 tonnes in the year to December. The increases are reported to be the first annual rises for almost 40 years.

Two recession-related factors are thought to be behind the increases: people staying in the UK rather than going on foreign holidays, as well as an switch to cheaper roll-up cigarettes.

The tobacco industry has retorted that plain packs would do nothing to stop young people taking up smoking. Imperial Tobacco chief executive Gareth Davies said: "There is no credible evidence that young people start smoking or adult smokers continue to smoke because of tobacco packaging. "Making all tobacco products available in the same generic plain packaging will further fuel the growth in illicit trade and undermine the government's plans to increase investment in tackling smuggling and counterfeiting."

British American Tobacco said in a statement that the government's decision to consider the case for plain packaging "plays right into the hands of the very criminals they seek to clamp down on". "Plain packs would require no complicated logos, colours or designs to be copied - making it far easier and cheaper for criminals to flood the market with mass produced fake products for sale on street corners.

Philip Morris, meanwhile, has recently launched a website, www.plain-packaging.com, designed to campaign against the imposition of plain packaging by arguing that it would do nothing to cut smoking rates.

Reference: Row over plain cigarette packs amid first sales hike in four decades, Josh Brooks, packagingnews.co.uk, 2/3/2010.

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