Cigarette manufacturer JTI has launched an advertising campaign against government proposals to mandate plain packaging for tobacco products following the discovery that Department of Health (DoH) officials have questioned the strategy's effectiveness.
A Freedom of Information request unearthed an email sent in 2011 in which an anonymous member of the UK government’s Tobacco Policy team raised concerns that, with no prior case studies, the proposal’s effectiveness could not be substantiated.
It was addressed to a member of Australia’s governmental health department, which became the first country to introduce the legislation in December 2012.
It reads: "As I’m sure you’re aware, one of the difficulties regarding [the introduction of plain packaging tobacco products] is that nobody has done this and therefore, there isn’t any hard evidence to show that it works."
The adverts first appeared in a number of national newspapers and magazines on Monday and will continue to run over the next couple of weeks, bearing a copy of the email above the strapline: "We couldn’t have put it better ourselves."
JTI UK managing director Jorge de Motta said: "We are using this media campaign to demonstrate that in 2011 even the DoH accepted that these proposals are not supported by any hard evidence.
"We hope common sense will prevail and that the government will disregard this proposal, before embarking on a process which will do nothing more than deprive the treasury of much needed revenue and make hundreds of millions of pounds for the criminals who manufacture, distribute and sell illegal tobacco products."
Mike Ridgway, who fronts a lobby group against the plain packaging proposals on behalf of a collective of UK packagers, has been long defending the complex techniques used to produce tobacco packaging in the war against counterfeiters.
"The print and packaging of cigarette products uses sophisticated and advanced manufacturing methods to combat counterfeiting.
"If we move to plain packaging, this reduces the print variance to one single unit and makes way for lower quality tobacco products to be sold in the UK from across the globe."
There are currently only two UK packaging companies which are capable of producing cigarette packaging, Amcor and Chesapeake, which use inline gravure methods to emboss, deboss and apply hot foil stamping to enhance security and authenticity.
Ridgway said that he had met with DoH on behalf of the group, comprising Chesapeake, Payne, API Group, Parkside Flexibles and Weidenhammer Packaging Group, two weeks ago to discuss concerns about the proposal.
"The packaging industry fully supports the government ideals to reduce smoking, but fully supports JTI’s view that there is no evidence that plain packaging affects smoking uptake."
He cited evidence that smoking levels in Australia had remained consistent since before plain packaging was introduced at the end of the year, and recommended that "better education, information and cultural awareness" were more beneficial ways to combat smoking.