Jorge Da Motta is set to take over as Japan Tobacco International MD on Monday, replacing Martin Southgate who is retiring.

Da Motta is currently JTI’s regional sales and marketing vice president for the Asia region, based in Hong Kong. He has worked for the company since 2005 and has wider fmcg experience gleaned from sales, marketing and general management roles at Cadbury, Frito Lay and SAB Miller.

The appointment comes as the industry awaits the government’s verdict on whether to force all tobacco products into plain packs. Its delayed response following consultation is expected any time now.

Da Motta admitted these were testing times. “The most challenging dynamic for the UK business is the high tax regime and the corresponding high level of non-UK duty paid cigarettes,” he said. “This makes the threat to legitimate businesses both small and large significant and dangerous.”

Last year, Southgate described the potential move as “commercial vandalism”, and promised to challenge regulation it deemed “flawed, unreasonable, disproportionate or without evidence or foundation”.

JTI also launched an ad campaign in UK newspapers in August 2012 against plain packs.

“It is extremely important to us that more balance is brought to the tobacco debate to ensure there is greater public awareness of flawed policy making,” Southgate added.

The outgoing MD joined Rothmans in 1975, where he remained until its acquisition by British American Tobacco in 1999.

Following a two-year stint at an internet start-up, he returned to run JTI’s Switzerland business in 2001, before moving to Romania and the Republic of Ireland. He took over the UK business at the end of 2010.