20th May 2017

Changes in the UK Tobacco Market 20th May 2017 including Plain Packaging


On the 20th May the following changes happen in the UK tobacco market:


  • Bans on small tobacco packs (less than 20 cigarettes, 30g of hand rolling).
  • Bans on branded packs (ie full introduction of plain packaging)
  • New EU wide pictorial health warnings on tobacco packs
  • Various restrictions on e-cigarettes including restrictions on tank sizes and bans on TV, radio and print advertising
  • Prohibits a number of characterising flavourings

These measures stem from an European piece of legislation called the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) – the UK adopted this into law last year. The UK tobacco industry believes that these measures will have detrimental impact on the UK, costing jobs, impacting on small businesses, losing the taxpayer money, restricting consumer choice, in the case of small packs forcing people to smoke more not less and on the e-cigarette restrictions deterring people from switching from tobacco.


Also there is disagreement as to the effectiveness of these measures from the health lobby:


1)      On the ban on small packs introduced by TPD:

Martin Dockrell, Head of Tobacco Control at PHE said when head of policy at lobby group Action on Smoking in 2008 that:

“People buy smaller pack sizes such as 10s when they are attempting to reduce their tobacco consumption and quit. If you wanted people to lose weight you wouldn’t take away fun-sized chocolate bars and only sell jumbos. I’m with the retailers on this one.”



Whilst the Head of Policy at CRUK Alison Cox when interviewed by ITV on 20th May 2016 on the small pack ban admitted that the move could actually lead to people smoking more:


Chris Choi:

Even if you can’t stop your habit it is set to change. New rules from today include a ban on the production of packets of ten cigarettes. It is strongly supported by health campaigners.

Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK:

Certainly, if we are thinking about children or people on a lower income, they are really going to think twice about buying a packet of 20 rather than a packet of ten.

Chris Choi:

Surely if people have to buy a bigger packet, they will end up smoking more cigarettes.

Alison Cox:

Well, that may be the case, but the point is to make the barrier much higher before people buy them in the first place.


2)      On plain packaging (that TPD allowed member states to introduce):


A Cochrane review of 51 studies on plain packaging published on 27th April 2017: “didn’t find any studies on whether changing tobacco packaging affects the number of young people starting to smoke”

Preventing youth access to tobacco take up was the chief reason cited by the Government and health campaigners why plain packaging was introduced in the UK.



3)      On the new pictorial health warnings introduced by TPD:


Kate Forbes, Member of the Scottish Parliament has raised concerns that the new health warnings may actually encourage children to smoke following feedback from one of her constituents.


4)      Restrictions on e-cigarettes will in effect deter people from switching from tobacco given the available ‘hit’ will now be lower than previously allowed.


The TMA on each of the above measures believes that there is no evidence that any of the proposals will actually work and that they could actually be counterproductive.  As this is a EU piece of legislation, the TMA is calling for the Government to reverse these measures following Brexit.


A copy of the TMA press release is available to view here



A briefing on the 20th May changes is available to download here