A NEW report claims 2,732 jobs could be lost from small independent retailers in the South West if plain packaging for tobacco is introduced.
The study was carried out by the Centre for Economics and Business Research and commissioned by tobacco giant Philip Morris Ltd. The researchers estimate that plain packaging would result in a loss of tobacco and non-tobacco sales; a shift by consumers from convenience retailers to larger retailers as a result of increased transaction times and longer queues; and increased illicit trade.
Independent tobacconist Martin McGahey, proprietor of McGahey's in Exeter High Street, dismissed as "silly" the idea that shopkeepers would take longer to serve customers if tobacco products were in plain packs. But he expressed concern that plain packaging would make it easier for criminal gangs to produce counterfeit cigarettes. That's the big danger," he said. "It's like having a white piece of paper instead of a £10 note. If you are making a choice to smoke you won't know what you are smoking."
He added: "It would have an impact on us like every other rule change, but probably more so on the corner shops, who would lose the customers who come in for tobacco and also buy a newspaper, a loaf of bread and so on. My concern would be the increase in illicit trade. If the Government are stupid enough to do it they would lose revenue."
Ministers recently put plans for plain tobacco packaging on hold while they assess what impact the measure has had in Australia. Health campaigners argue the policy would save lives by making smoking less attractive for young people.
Oliver Hogan, of the CEBR, said: "Our findings show that the potential impact of this plain packaging policy could be traumatic for the High Street."