BATS and Imperial Tobacco warn plain cigarette packs a “counterfeiter’s charter”

British American Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco, the FTSE cigarette manufacturers, have warned that the Government risks shooting itself in the foot with its plans to regulate the industry.

The FTSE companies backed Government plans to crack down on tobacco smuggling but warned that the illicit trade would be boosted by proposals to remove branding from winston tobacco.

Imperial Tobacco called the proposal a “counterfeiter’s charter” while BAT said it would play “right into the hands of the very criminals they seek to clamp down on.”

“Plain packs would require no complicated logos, colours or designs to be copied – making it far easier and cheaper for criminals to flood the market with mass produced fake products for sale on street corners,” a spokesman for BAT said. “And the perverse outcome of this is that cigarettes will become more accessible to young people and the sections of society that these regulations seek to protect.”

The criticism came after Andy Burnham, the health secretary, unveiled plans to halve the number of smokers in Britain by the end of the decade and said the Government would consider outlawing branding as well as banning cigarette vending machines.

Mr Burnham said he wanted to reduce the percentage of the population who smoke from 21pc to 10pc by 2020. In a statement likely to have sent chills through the tobacco industry, Mr Burnham said: “One day, in the not too distant future, we’ll look back and find it hard to remember why anyone ever smoked in the first place.”

BAT said a state-led move on packaging could have legal ramifications. “If the Government tries to introduce plain packaging it will have a huge fight on its hands,” the BAT spokesman said. “Brands are valuable corporate assets and the Government risks breaching various legal obligations relating to intellectual property rights, international trade and European law.”

source: www.telegraph.co.uk

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