Kent Messenger Maidstone

Concerns raised over plain packaging plan


A NEWSAGENT has warned government plans to introduce plain packaged cigarettes could boost counterfei­t packets.

Christine Southern, who runs Southerns News in Mangravet Avenue with husband Nick, fears the proposal would make it easier for illegal traders to disguise illicit ciggies.

She said: “I buy our stock from a cash and carry but some people are more naive and use door-to-door sellers. It’s those people who could end up buying counterfei­t goods, and they could contain all sorts of ingredient­s.

“Plain packaging would leave the way open for counterfei­t cigarettes. Plus, I don’t see the point when all stockists will have to have their cigarettes off display by 2015.”

According to MSIntellig­ence, a survey agency, 33.3% of all packets in the South East are either illegal or purchased outside of the UK.

Maidstone had the 12th highest rate of non-domestic cigarettes in the country with a rate of 36.18% – higher than the regional average. Gillingham came out worse with 54.5% of surveyed packets identified as non-duty paid.

HM Revenue and Customs estimate smuggled cigarettes cost the taxpayer up to £3.6 billion in revenue during 2009 and 2010.

The idea for plain branding comes after it was rolled out in Australia. The government launched a consultati­on on plans to introduce mandatory standardis­ed packaging for all tobacco products.

However, the proposal was not mentioned in the Queen’s speech and prompted suspicions it has been quietly shelved.

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