Tobacco companies hype smuggling fears to steer clear of plain packaging, finds review

Australian cigarette packaging

The standardised packaging which is now necessary for cigarettes in Australia. Official figures from Australian customs say smuggling has not elevated. Photograph: Tim Wimborne/Reuters

Tobacco companies have been accused of encouraging scare stories claiming that the introduction of plain cigarette packs would promote smuggling.

A peer-reviewed examine has located that, far from the sector currently being a victim of smuggling, there are credible allegations that it has been complicit in facilitating unlawful trade in its items.

A report by Sir Cyril Chantler, reviewing the public wellness rewards of plain packaging, is due to be delivered to the government this week. It was commissioned right after a row about David Cameron’s election strategist Lynton Crosby, whose lobbying firm represents tobacco interests. PMI, which helps make Marlboro cigarettes and is a client of Crosby’s company, has warned that plain packaging would encourage smuggling.

Even so the new study, published in the journal Tobacco Control, claims such arguments should be viewed sceptically.

Professor Anna Gilmore of the Tobacco Management Study Group at the University of Bath said: “We discovered that from early 2008 until early 2011 there have been definitely no media stories citing sector information on illicit sales of tobacco, despite ranges becoming far higher then than they are now. Then out of the blue, just right after the probability of plain packaging was announced, we noticed an boost in such stories, which have continued given that. This, and the truth that leaked documents demonstrate that illicit trade was to be one of the industry’s crucial arguments towards plain packs, suggests this is a deliberate approach.”

Gilmore explained business claims that the use of illicit cigarettes in the United kingdom was sharply increasing have been “wholly inconsistent” with historical trends and recent independent data.

The paper also states: “There is expanding proof that the tobacco businesses are nonetheless involved in the illicit trade. There is proof of considerable overproduction of cigarettes in markets this kind of as Ukraine and Belarus and we know these extra cigarettes finish up in the illegal marketplace.”

Numerous of the tobacco industry’s claims about smuggled tobacco are based on its own studies examining discarded packs at higher-profile venues this kind of as racecourses and football stadiums. But Gilmore questioned the reliability of this kind of studies.

“Tobacco industry data on the illicit trade is completely unreliable,” she said. “Their methodology is never entirely transparent. Their misleading claims about illicit should be witnessed for what they are – a desperate bid to avoid plain packaging from currently being implemented.”

The industry has been robust in fighting its corner. It has commissioned many studies that claim that standardised packs would see an improve in smuggling – anything that could deprive the Exchequer of billions of lbs. Itfiercely rejects claims that it encourages the offering of its personal merchandise on the black marketplace, pointing out that it money a selection of counter-smuggling initiatives.Official customs figures published earlier this month in Australia, the initial country to introduce plain packs, uncovered that the measure has had virtually no effect on tobacco smuggling. “This offical data from Australian customs is the last nail in the coffin for the tobacco industry’s argument that plain packs will boost illicit,” Gilmore stated. “Yet once more the industry’s lies are exposed.”

Deborah Arnott of overall health charity Ash, mentioned the tobacco industry had paid vast sums to consultancies and thinktanks “to make dubious reviews towards plain standardised packaging of cigarettes, which make up in size what they lack in academic rigour.

“The oft-repeated argument that smuggling will increase if branding is eliminated runs counter to all independent proof and is no longer credible.”

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