Tuesday 17 July 2018

Only counterfeiters will benefit from plain packaging warns UK lobbyist

Packing a punch: Graphic health warnings on Australian cigarette packaging
Packing a punch: Graphic health warnings on Australian cigarette packaging
Mike Ridgway, who opposes plain packaging laws in the UK

David Kearns

Campaigners fighting against plain tobacco packaging claim that criminal gangs will pocket more than €22 million from counterfeit cigarettes if the scheme goes ahead.

Mike Ridgway, a spokesperson for UK packaging firms, said that ‘if you take away plain packaging specification, only the counterfeiter will benefit.’

‘Packaging is the main way to combat the illicit trade in counterfeit cigarettes. Take that way, and the criminals will profit enormously,’ he said.

Speaking on RTE’s Liveline, Mr Ridgway made the claim that criminals would generate some €22 million from counterfeit sales as he challenged the belief that plain packaging had reduced smoking trends in Australia – the only country to have introduced plain packaging laws.

Read More: 'Marlboro Man' threatens to sue State over new cigarette packet law

“The answer I got from everyone was that plain packaging had had no effect in reducing the amount they smoked,” he said, commenting on the results of a survey he carried out on smokers while visiting the country two weeks ago.

“People liked what they were doing and said they understood the risks,” he added.

Mr Ridgway’s assertions though were challenged by Professor John Crown, who said that not enough time had passed since the plain packaging law was introduced in Australia for anyone to claim ‘any kind of result’.

“Plain packaging is not about achieving a sudden drop in the number of active smokers,” he said. “It is about making the habit as unappealing as possible so no one will take it up.”

Read More: Minister's plain packaging bill is sent to President

Recent studies from Australia claim that there has been a 10pc drop in the uptake of smoking, and a study from 2014 found that the majority of Australian smokers now backed the country’s ban on cigarette packaging.

Professor Crown accused Mr Ridgway of ‘parroting’ the same arguments used by tobacco companies to derail discussion on introducing plain packaging, and asked him to declare “his commercial relationships with tobacco firms.”

Mr Ridgway, who said he was only speaking on behalf of leading packaging manufactories, admitted that he had had a history of working alongside tobacco firms due to his role in the packaging industry.

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