Plain packaging failing one year after full introduction

Plain packaging failing one year after full introduction

Embargoed: 00.01 14th May 2018


The Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association (TMA) today reveals data and exclusive new polling which shows how plain packaging is failing in the UK on the first anniversary after its controversial introduction.

Reducing smoking levels was a key objective behind the introduction of plain packaging since its inception in May 2017 but this is not supported by independent evidence with recent statistics showing an upturn in smoking levels. Fake plain packaged cigarettes have been found across the UK whilst new polling shows that plain packaging is encouraging millions of smokers to buy from the black market.

Plain packaging has also been judged to be failing in the two other countries where it has been introduced, Australia and France.

  • The Smoking Toolkit Study has found that on a three month rolling average, from December 2017 to March 2018, smoking rates in England were higher than for the same time last year before plain packaging was fully introduced.
Month Smoking rate % Month Smoking rate % Y/Y Change
Dec-16 17.0 Dec-17 17.4 +0.4
Jan-17 16.7 Jan-18 17.1 +0.4
Feb-17 16.1 Feb-18 17.9 +1.8
Mar-17 16.5 Mar-18 17.1 +0.6


  • The TMA estimates that if the same effect was seen across the UK, there would be approximately 350,000 more adult smokers in March 2018 than a year before plain packaging was fully introduced.
  • This reflects international evidence that plain packaging doesn’t deter smoking. France introduced plain packaging in January 2016. The French Health Minister, Agnes Buzyn, recently admitted that: “Plain packaging did not contribute to the decrease of official tobacco sales”

Plain packs have delivered a huge benefit to criminals as counterfeiting a single pack design is easier and cheaper, therefore providing extra profit.

  • Counterfeit plain packaged tobacco products have already been found across the country.
    • The Government was warned this would happen by the tobacco industry, law enforcement and intellectual property experts.

New TMA polling conducted over the last two months has also found that smokers are being pushed towards the illicit market by plain packaging. Over a quarter of UK smokers say that the measure has made them more likely to buy untaxed tobacco, the equivalent to 1.9 million people across the UK.


Giles Roca, Director General of the TMA, said:

“The recent evidence shows that plain packaging appears to be failing in the UK like everywhere it has been introduced. It appears not to be delivering the health outcomes it was claimed it would bring while at the same time is proving to be a boon to the black market by encouraging smokers to buy from illicit sources. The Government should recognise that plain packaging is failing and undertake a full and immediate review of this policy.”


Notes to Editors

  • The Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association (TMA) is the trade association for the UK tobacco industry. The TMA’s members are British American Tobacco UK Ltd., Imperial Tobacco Ltd., and Gallaher Ltd. (a member of the Japan Tobacco Group of companies).
  • In 2016-17 the tobacco tax gap was estimated to be £3.1 billion by HMRC.
  • The tobacco industry contributes approximately £11.5 billion in tax (Tobacco Duty and VAT) each year.
  • The Smoking Toolkit Study (STS) is a national programme which has tracked key indicators around smoking in England since 2006, run by University College London, and is endorsed by the Department of Health – the data can be found:
  • The number of smokers is calculated by applying the smoking rates for England in the STS to the whole UK using the ONS mid-year 2016 UK population estimates for adults (18+).
  • TMA anti-illicit trade poll of 4,480 smokers took place during April and May 2018. Unweighted results:
    • 24% of smokers say they are aware of illicit tobacco in their local area – a 20% increase on last year’s finding (20%).
    • 53% of smokers agreed that rising prices made them more likely to buy untaxed tobacco.
    • Over a quarter of smokers (27%) agreed that plain packs made them more likely to buy untaxed tobacco.
    • More than one in three smokers (34%) agreed that minimum pack sizes made them more likely to buy untaxed tobacco.
    • 44% of smokers agreed that they have no objections to buying untaxed tobacco even when it is from an illegal source.


No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.