Shops hit out at plans to force cigarettes into plain packaging

BRITISH retailers have reacted angrily to a government plan to force tobacco products to be sold in plain packaging, labeling it “crazy”.

The legislation would make the recent costly ban on tobacco display redundant, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has said.

The BRC’s Andrew Opie hit out: “Having just forced large retailers to spend almost £16m refitting stores to hide tobacco products the government is now confirming it’s considering legislation on packaging – that’s crazy.”

The Department of Health estimates the tobacco display ban applies to 6,834 large stores. Taking the average cost of refitting a store from a sample of BRC members (£2,285), installation costs for large retailers are therefore estimated at £15.6m.

Smokers’ groups have also lashed out at the plans. “The consultation on plain packaging threatens to be a farce,” said Forest’s Simon Clark. “Andrew Lansley says he is open minded yet he clearly supports plain packaging even before the consultation has begun”

Health secretary Andrew Lansley has even faced criticism from within his own party regarding the new plans. Conservative MP Mark Field warned that enforcing tobacco products to be sold under plain packaging would “create a dangerous precedent for the future of commercial free speech.”

“It will result in the increased health threat posed by counterfeit tobacco, the encouragement of smuggled products and damaging competition,” he said, writing on the Conservative Home website.