Plain packaging could put me, and many others like me, out of business.
I am a retailer with 17 newsagents across the East Midlands. I have been selling tobacco products for 30 years and they represent more than 40% of my sales. Any risk to these sales will have serious implications for the viability of my shops, my staff, and the contribution my shops make to local business and the community.
The most recent of tobacco regulations is the retail display ban, whose full implementation is not due until 2015. The sums are still being worked out, but the ban could cost each retailer thousands of pounds. This is not subsidised, it is a shopkeeper’s responsibility and shopkeepers bear the brunt. And before this change is in place, the government is considering the introduction of plain packaging, which will cost retailers more time and money.
A study by the Rural Shops Alliance (RSA) found that plain packaging will cause far longer queuing times and costly staff errors. The RSA says that it could cost the retail industry about £100 million a year.
So where is the evidence that plain packaging will deter children from smoking? Forbidden fruit has its own attraction, and further regulation is likely to be counter-productive.
” Tobacco should go through legitimate businesses such as mine”
I was in favour of the ban on smoking in pubs, and change in age restrictions from 16 to 18. I’ve spent the past 30 years making sure I don’t sell tobacco to those under age. Small retail shops are the cornerstones of the community.
I have sold tobacco responsibly, and continue to do so. But as with alcohol, these are legal consumer goods that carry strict regulation, which I enforce, even though I might not agree with all of it.
Criminals would profit most from plain packaging, as counterfeiting will be made easier. At £8 per pack, the price tag already makes it worth the risk bringing cigarettes in from Eastern Europe. Plain packaging will make counterfeit cigarettes an even more attractive prospect to the smoking public.
Those sales should be going through legitimate businesses such as mine, and the UK tax system, to provide much-needed cash for schools and hospitals. Standardised packaging will not achieve its main aim to improve public health. Smokers do not pay attention to the images on packs, but focus on price, as a poll by Eurobarometer has shown.
Plain packaging will open a Pandora’s box for other products that sustain a shopkeeper’s livelihood. Alcohol and confectionery are surely the next targets of unwarranted legislation.
Convenience retail in the UK creates around 32,000 jobs, and makes more than £3.2 billion. Times are hard enough, especially small businesses in an industry choked by rules. All we ask for is common sense. Respect the public, and let it make an informed decision.
Without common-sense, we face a cold winter, and if left unchecked, endless regulation will lead to even more shops closing down on my high street, and countless others.