Plain Cigarette Packs Do Not Hurt Retailers
Plain packs for cigarettes do not hurt small retailers, flood the market with cheap cigarettes, or boost the trade in counterfeit tobacco, according to new research.
The findings from the study in Australia are published in the journal BMJ Open.
Australia was the first country in the world to introduce plain packaging for tobacco products, in December 2012, with the UK, Ireland and New Zealand considering doing the same.
Researchers spoke to around 4,000 adult smokers in the state of Victoria and asked them if the new packaging had changed their shopping habits.
Their answers showed no change in the places smokers usually bought their tobacco between 2011 and 2013.
Use of illicit unbranded tobacco did not increase and just 1.7% said they had bought from informal sources, such as a market stall or the back of a van, over the past 12 months.
The Tobacco Manufacturers' Association in the UK claim previous studies have found the opposite - that numbers of counterfeit cigarettes go up and cost AU$1bn (£564m) in lost taxes.
They added: "The limited telephone survey published in the BMJ only covers one Australian state and does not provide a statistically robust assessment of the impact on the illicit market and retail trade."
Amanda Sandford, from Action on Smoking and Health, which has campaigned for branding to be removed from packs, said: "We hope the Government will study this research closely and that it will hopefully reassure them, if they had any doubts about the economic impact of the measure, and that they will therefore press ahead with standardised packaging in the UK as soon as possible."
The British government has just carried out another consultation and will review the results before any final decision is made.
If they do get the go-ahead, the earliest the plain packs are likely to be in shops is 2016.