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Tobacco industry delaying tactics criticised as new tobacco laws come into force

As standardised “plain” packaging and other tobacco regulations come into force (20 May), health campaigning charity ASH Scotland has released a new report, Dodgy Cigs, detailing the way the tobacco industry has raised ill-founded concerns about illicit tobacco to oppose public health measures.

Big Tobacco has claimed in the past that new public health laws will cause rises in the market for illicit tobacco, such as smuggled tobacco and counterfeit cigarettes. This has been particularly prominent in Australia, the first country to introduce plain packaging. The tobacco industry claimed that the policy would cause rises in illicit tobacco use, but official figures in the years since implementation have not agreed.

In the UK, the illicit tobacco market has declined since the year 2000, despite new laws protecting people from tobacco and increases in the price of a pack of twenty cigarettes.


Figure 1 – HMRC’s estimate of the size of the illicit tobacco market in the UK, plotted alongside to the price of a pack of 20 cigarettes (in 2014 GBP). The illicit market has consistently fallen at a time when tobacco prices have increased.

Commenting on the release of Dodgy Cigs, ASH Scotland Chief Executive Sheila Duffy said:

“The tobacco industry has often predicted that public health measures will cause rises in illicit tobacco. But this stance looks increasingly bizarre as illicit continues to reduce while regulation and price increase.

“We need to be wise to these tactics, and support proven public health measures. Standardised packaging will help put tobacco out of sight, out of mind and out of fashion for the next generation, making smoking less attractive for our children. Although it will take many years to see the full effects of this policy, the evidence from Australia, where plain packs have been used since 2012, shows that they can help to protect children from starting smoking and could help adults to quit.

“These new laws won’t single-handedly solve the problem of tobacco addiction. But they are another step on the journey to a tobacco-free Scotland by 2034.”


Notes –

Dodgy Cigs isavailable from A two-page key points report is available at /media/547507/dodgy-cigs-key-points-nt.pdf.

For further information please contact ASH Scotland on 0131 225 4725 or Out of hours mobile 07776 142 299

Standardised “plain” packaging

From 20 May, plain packs of cigarettes will start to appear in the shops. These packs (above) feature drab colours and graphic health warnings to show the real impact of smoking tobacco. By 20 May 2017, all tobacco sold in the UK will have to be in plain packs.

Plain packs have led to a significant drop in the smoking rate in Australia, and are a key component in putting tobacco out of sight, out of mind and out of fashion to meet the Scottish Government’s target of a smoke-free Scotland by 2034.

Plain packs are not blank, white packs,but instead feature drab colours and graphic health warnings about the dangers of smoking (see picture above). Print quality images are available – please contact

EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD)

The TPD will make certain changes to all tobacco products sold in every country in the EU:

All products in the EU must have 65% of the front and back of their packaging covered by health warnings
No cigarettes will be able to use misleading descriptions like “light” or “natural”, which promote the false idea that some cigarettes are less harmful
Cigarette packs will contain a minimum of 20 sticks, with hand-rolling tobacco pouches containing at least 30g of tobacco
There will be new regulations on the sales of e-cigarettes containing nicotine, including:

Television and other “cross-border” advertising will no longer be permitted
Mandatory warning labels about the addictive nature of nicotine
All products must be registered with the UK Government by 20 May 2017

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