LONDON, May 19, 2017 /PRNewswire/ --
The day before major changes in the UK tobacco market are due to come into full effect, comprehensive new research has shown that the introduction of plain packaging and the ban on small tobacco packs is already driving people to buy cheap, black market tobacco.
In a series of questions put to consumers over the last five months as the new measures were being phased in, the Tobacco Manufacturers' Association (TMA) has tracked the impact of these regulations on smoker behaviour and found a growth in people buying from non-UK duty paid sources.
- There was a 14.5% increase in smokers buying packs of 20 cigarettes from illicit sources and abroad in the last five months;
- Smokers buying larger packs of hand rolling tobacco from illicit sources and abroad almost doubled with a 91.7% increase;
- There was a 31.6% increase in smokers buying online from social media and websites advertising cheap illegal tobacco;
- There was a 22.1% increase in smokers buying any tobacco product from abroad, thereby avoiding UK duty;
- In the final wave of the survey, the average price paid for a pack of 20 cigarettes from an illegal supplier was £5.63 - £1.72 less than the £7.35 sum which the government has used to set the minimum excise tax on a packet of 20 cigarettes.
Commenting on the findings Giles Roca, Director General of the TMA, said:
"It is clear from this research that plain packaging and the small packs ban, measures imposed by Europe and adopted by the UK Government, are already having an impact on smokers' behaviour as they seek out cheaper alternatives from the black market and abroad. It's no surprise that our research points to a rise in the illicit market - this is exactly what happened in Australia when plain packaging was introduced in 2012.
"On banning small packs, which are particularly popular in the UK, independent research confirmed that such a move will cost the Treasury £2.1 billion in the first year, costing 11,190 jobs whilst even those in public health agree that it will lead to people smoking more, not less, tobacco.
"On plain packaging, a recent major independent review of 51 studies found no evidence that it acted to prevent youth-uptake - the chief justification why the measure was introduced in the UK. Whilst figures from France, that introduced plain packaging in January 2017, show cigarette consumption actually increased compared to last year when branding was allowed. In March alone the French bought four million packets of cigarettes, over four percent more than during the same period last year.
"These measures were introduced not based on evidence or hard fact but on the dogma of various health lobby groups. Given these measures originated in Brussels, the Government should commit to review each and every one of them following Brexit."
The TMA has produced a briefing on these changes and what effects they are likely to have and can be found by clicking here.
A full version of the press release can be found here.