Plans to enforce the sale of cigarettes in plain packets could make it easier for counterfeiters and cost UK jobs, the union Unite has warned.
Government is expected to open a consultation on the idea today alongside another new rule which will ban the promotion of tobacco products in shops.
But Unite says the plans amount to a ‘counterfeiter’s charter’.
“Counterfeiters have sophisticated their forgeries of current packaging to the point where even the trained eye sometimes misses the fakes,” said Jennie Formby, Unite national officer for tobacco workers.
“Switching to plain packaging will make it easier to sell their illicit and unregulated products especially to young people. That would undermine the regulated industry, may increase long-term health problems and put workers in the regulated industry out of work. Government revenues would suffer significantly and pressure on health spending increase.”
She says Government has already recognised in a 2008 consultation document on plain packaging that such a move could be damaging for the UK’s tobacco industry, which directly employs 6,000 people and supports other industries such as packaging.
Government’s offensive on smoking over the past decade has thus far included the banning of advertisements of tobacco products, the obligation to include prominent health warnings on packaging, the banning of smoking in public places and raising the legal age for buying cigarettes from 16 to 18. From later this year the sale of cigarettes from vending machines will no longer be permitted.
Research suggests that roughly one in five adults in the UK are full time smokers.