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Caution urged over plain packaging for tobacco

28 November, 2013

The PRA has called on the Government to consider carefully the potential impact on retailers of standardised packaging for tobacco.

The Government is to carry out another review into imposing plain packaging just four months after announcing the results of previous consultation on the issue.

The Department of Health has announced that a review into the effectiveness of plain packaging for tobacco in Australia, where it has been in operation for a year, will conclude in March 2014, with a view to introducing legislation to Parliament by 2015.

Brian Madderson, chairman of the PRA said: “There is clear evidence that plain tobacco packaging would be detrimental to retailers. Independent research by Roy Morgan into the effects of Australian plain packaging legislation has shown that retailers continue to be burdened by additional staffing costs and service issues, with two-thirds of small retailers claiming that plain packaging has negatively impacted their business and nearly 80% of retailers experiencing increased service times. Australia has also seen a dramatic increase in the illicit tobacco trade, which now stands at 13.3% of consumption - the highest level ever recorded.

“Furthermore, there is yet to be any substantiated evidence that the legislation is changing Australian smoking habits. A report by London Economics, one of the first comprehensive studies considering smoking prevalence since the introduction of plain packaging in Australia, concluded that over the timeframe of the analysis there has been no change in smoking prevalence following the introduction of plain packaging legislation despite an increase in the noticeability of the new health warnings.

“PRA will raise these points over the course of the review and will ensure that Government are aware of the potential implications of plain packaging legislation. The worthy aim of reducing smoking can be much better achieved through education rather than unproven and excessive regulations which threaten the livelihoods of independent retailers.”