Lifestyle Economics

Plain packaging for tobacco would cause harm not good


Press Release

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Monetary Policy

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Mark Littlewood responds to calls for legislation on cigarette packaging

Responding to calls for the introduction of legislation mandating plain packaging for cigarettes, IEA Director General Mark Littlewood said:

“There is no evidence to suggest that plain packaging would reduce smoking rates amongst young people – the assertion seems to be based on a hunch or prejudice of the vociferous anti-tobacco lobby. In any event, current strategies for reducing underage smoking are working well.

“Not only would plain packaging do no good, it would cause measurable harm. At present Britain is struggling with a serious blackmarket in this area – around 20% of all tobacco sales are illicit. Branding provides an incentive for consumers to buy from the legitimate market as it acts as a form of quality control. Removing it would make it easier for organised crime to add to the many millions they already make through illegal tobacco sales. As the illicit trade don’t tend to pay taxation on their transactions, revenues to the government would also fall.

“Completely removing the branding of tobacco products raises serious issues of free expression. It limits – indeed practically extinguishes – consumer information.

“Everyone is aware that smoking is an adult activity with risks to health. It is illegal to sell to those under 18. Tobacco cannot be advertised. It is an offence to smoke in enclosed areas open to the public. Taxpayers’ money is used on promoting a plethora of cessation plans. The war on tobacco should be declared over. These sorts of proposals come across as a petty vendetta against those who choose to smoke, not as an evidence-based attempt to improve health.”

Notes to editors

To arrange an interview with Mark Littlewood, IEA Director General, please contact Stephanie Lis, Communications Manager, 077 5171 7781, 020 7799 8900, [email protected].

The mission of the Institute of Economic Affairs is to improve understanding of the fundamental institutions of a free society by analysing and expounding the role of markets in solving economic and social problems.

The IEA is a registered educational charity and independent of all political parties.