Retailer groups slam Holyrood plan to switch to standardised tobacco packs after Westminster says wait and see
REPRESENTATIVE groups for convenience store operators, and newsagents have reacted angrily to the Scottish Government’s announcement that it plans to introduce its own legislation to force standardisation of tobacco packaging after Westminster said it was putting the issue on the back burner.
In London the Coalition Government’s secretary of state for health, Jeremy Hunt, said last month that the UK government would not be introducing legislation to require retailers to sell tobacco in standardised packaging.
The news came in a statement linked to Westminster’s response to its consultation on the issue.
Hunt’s statement said: “The Government has decided to wait until the emerging impact of the decision in Australia can be measured before we make a final decision on this policy in England.”
But at Holyrood the Scottish Government’s minister for public health, Michael Matheson almost immediately issued his own statement saying: “The Scottish Government remains committed to introducing standardised packaging, given the strong evidence to support the impact it will have on preventing young people from starting to smoke.
“We will now identify an appropriate timescale to introduce legislation on standardised packaging to the Scottish Parliament,” he added.
Retailer groups were unimpressed. At the Scottish Grocers’ Federation, chief executive john Drummond said the Westminster decision had represented an outbreak of common sense on the back of similar decisions by European authorities.
“We hope the Scottish government will ultimately take an equally common sense approach and abandon its plans for plain packaging. We should be tackling the real issues such as the illicit trade, which costs responsible retailers up to £30,000 in lost sales each year.”
At the National Federation of Retail Newsagents, Scottish president Des Donnelly said: “There is no credible evidence yet that putting tobacco in plain packs will reduce levels of youth smoking. Instead sales of smuggled and counterfeit tobacco products are likely to soar, providing organised crime with a further foothold in our communities and making illegal tobacco even more accessible to young people – the very people the government is so keen to protect.”