The plain cigarette pack debate... and the Jody Scheckter row

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Sir: MSR Newsgroup CEO Mick Garton states that standardised tobacco packaging could put him out of business (‘Plain packaging lacks all sense’, 27 October). He is being unduly pessimistic. There is no hard evidence to support such a claim. If standardised packaging were adopted in the UK it would apply to all tobacco retailers. CTNs would have neither competitive advantage or disadvantage compared with supermarkets.

As for the Rural Shops Alliance study of possible impact, yes, it’s possible that transaction times may take a little longer initially as staff get used to the redesigned packs, but a study of four shops hardly constitutes a robust controlled trial. To conclude from this that it would cost retailers up to £100m is pure speculation.

The worries about illicit trade are equally unfounded, since all packs will continue to carry covert markings to enable legitimate product to be distinguished from illicit: standardised packaging will be no easier to forge than branded packs.

Finally, the old ‘domino’ theory that once a measure is applied to tobacco other consumer goods will follow is another myth without foundation. Remember the advertising ban? A ban on the promotion of alcohol, fatty food, etc would have been in place by now if the doomsayers had been correct.

Tobacco is uniquely hazardous and needs to be treated accordingly. It is appropriate to regulate it as strongly as possible while allowing legitimate sales to adults to continue.

Amanda Sandford, research manager, Action on Smoking and Health

…and will cut smoking

Sir: In your report ‘JTI warns that it’s too soon to celebrate a fall in illicit tobacco trade’ (27 October, the company claims that plain packaging and the removal of tobacco displays mean there will be a rise in tobacco smuggling.

However, it’s generally best not to believe the tobacco industry on this issue. It always says that higher taxes will lead to more illicit tobacco. But smuggling rates have been falling for a decade due to better government enforcement and curbs on the tobacco industry’s past facilitation of smuggling.

Independent experts are clear their claims about plain packs do not make sense. Plain packs will make cigarettes less attractive to young people and help lower smoking rates.

Robin Hewings, tobacco control manager, Cancer Research UK

Be mature, Scheckter!

Sir: I am not surprised someone complained about Jody Scheckter’s beer labels (‘Defiant Scheckter calls on retailers to ignore Portman’, 3 November). I was persuaded to visit Laverstoke Park Farm for an interview in 2010. The company’s HR had dangled a carrot of a Mercedes-Benz and I thought I would see what it had to offer.

Being in the drinks industry and working for various different producers and retailers over the last 15 years, I did mention that the label contravened The Portman Group’s ethics and was rather appealing to children!

Scheckter was nevertheless hell bent on using the image. As a producer of alcohol, he should have a more mature attitude! While it was not me who complained about it, I would have done had I had the time, considering Laverstoke Park didn’t even have the politeness to notify me whether I got the job or not.

I took half a day out of my life and wasted £40 on fuel when I was on JSA! It was fortunate for me I didn’t get the job as I have started an internet marketing business that is doing really well! So thanks and good luck with the beer labels!

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