Opposition to plain packs hardens as evidence shows retailers pay the price

Published 26/03/2014 00:00:00 in Press Releases

Retailers are increasingly opposed to Government proposals to introduce plain packaging of tobacco products in the wake of evidence from Australia, a poll reveals today.

In the week that an independent review into plain packaging is due to report, the Populus poll undertaken for the Petrol Retailers Association reveals that:


·          73%of retailers say plain packaging would hurt their businesses, up from 65% last year

·          90% believe direct tobacco sales are important to their bottom line, up 11-points from last year

·          79% believe it would cause people to turn to the black market, where they can access cheap,

           branded packs

·          Nine in ten people (89%) say it would make counterfeiting easier


In a sign of the growing pressure on government to abandon consideration of plain packaging, 84 per cent of retailers surveyed said that implementing plain packs would go against the Government’s pledge to help small business.

Brian Madderson, Chairman of the PRA, said: “Retailers already feel abandoned by a government that promised to help business but has instead unleashed a blizzard of new regulations, leaving them to foot the bill.

“Small retailers are facing the cost of introducing the point of sale display ban next year, so it is absurd that the government might now adopt plain packaging when there is not a shred of evidence that it would reduce smoking rates.

“The more retailers hear about the impact of plain packaging in Australia, which is the only country to experiment with the measure, the more opposed they are to seeing it introduced in the UK. Retailers are unanimous in their belief that the Government should fully evaluate the Australian experiment before implementing plain packaging here.”

The concerns expressed by retailers in the UK have been reinforced by the experience of retailers in Australia, the only country to experiment with plain packaging.

According to the Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS), 70% of retailers have been negatively affected by plain packaging, with 67% saying that the growth of the black market has had an impact on their business since plain packaging was introduced.

These findings, shared with the Petrol Retailers Association, were part of a report entitled The Impact of Plain Packaging on Australian Small Retailers, which was conducted by leading international research company Roy Morgan.

AACS CEO Jeff Rogut said: “We would urge the UK not to make the same mistake as Australia by adopting plain packaging. The spike in costs to retailers from plain packaging, combined with a booming illegal trade is having a dramatic effect, with retailers being forced to absorb additional costs at the same time as losing customers to the black market.”

In Australia, legitimate retailers are losing business to illegal sales of branded illicit packs at a fraction of the cost of legal plain packs. This was highlighted by the media in Australia last year.

The surge in illicit trade has been so big that illegal brand 'Manchester' is now outselling legal brands such as Camel. In some cases, retailers are losing up to AUS $15,000 a week to the black market, whilst the Australian Treasury lost AUS$1.1billionto the illicit trade in cigarettes last year.

Madderson concluded, “The experiences of retailers in Australia serve to reinforce the need for a thorough impact assessment before this policy goes any further and this must include a full evaluation of Australia’s experiment with plain packs.”




Notes for editors:

The Petrol Retailers Association represents some 5,300 independent filling stations across the UK which is more than 60% of the total. The trade association is committed to helping its members run their businesses legally and profitably adapting to new challenges in the market place.

The PRA member survey was undertaken by Populus and funded by Philip Morris Limited. The results are derived from a telephone survey conducted from 5 – 13 March 2014 among PRA members and involved a total of 400 interviews. 

The data on the impact of plain packaging on Australian retailers was undertaken by Roy Morgan Research and released by the Australasian Association of Convenience Stores – ‘The Impact of Plain Packaging on Small Retailers’.

Please click here for a full report.

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