Plain packaging led to a spike in price of cigarettes by up to 38p per pack, study finds
- Prices have risen by almost 5% for a 20-pack and 8% for rolling tobacco
- Plain packaging was enforced in May 2017 to encourage smokers to quit
- Tobacco companies argued the competition in price would lead to reductions
- Researchers said the companies used this to try and deter the legislation
Plain packaging on cigarettes has led to an increase in the sale price of leading brands, research suggests.
The price of popular cigarettes rose by almost five per cent – an extra 38p for a pack of 20. The price of hand-rolling tobacco rose by around eight per cent – an extra 91p on a 30g pack.
The legislation was introduced in May last year with the aim of reducing the appeal of smoking, particularly for young people.
The researchers said their findings are at odds with tobacco companies’ predictions that plain packaging would lead to lower prices and greater affordability.
Plain packaging on cigarettes has led to an increase in the sale price of leading brands, by an extra 38p for top-selling 20-packs, and 91p for a 30g pack of tobacco, research found
Dr Nathan Critchlow, who led the research at Stirling University, said the findings indicate that tobacco companies intended to stall the standardised packaging from coming into effect.
He said: ‘Tobacco companies were strongly opposed to plain packaging.
‘They appeared adamant that, if the policy was implemented, brands would only be able to compete on price, which would result in lower prices, greater affordability and, consequently, increased consumption.
‘Our study, however, provides early evidence that these concerns of lower prices appear to be unfounded.
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‘We found that, as well as the sale prices, recommended retail prices also increased.
‘This suggests that tobacco companies instigated the price rises – and that their predictions of falling prices and rising affordability were intended to deter the government from implementing the policy.’
IS THE END OF SMOKING ‘IN SIGHT’ IN THE UK?
The end of smoking is finally ‘in sight’, officials claimed in June 2017 following figures that suggested another drop in rates across the UK.
Just one in six adults now regularly light up cigarettes – with 680,000 having given up the habit completely in 2016.
The numbers of smokers dropped from 19.9 per cent in 2010 to just 15.5 per cent in 2016 in England alone, according to data from the Office for National Statistics.
Across all ages smoking prevalence is in decline, with the largest fall in 18-to-24 year olds, while e-cigarette use is on the rise in this age group.
Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, said the UK has the second lowest smoking rate in Europe after Sweden, which proves that the Government’s tobacco-control policies are effective.
Dr Critchlow and the team monitored price data for 20 leading tobacco products – 15 factory-made cigarettes and five rolling tobacco products – sold by 500 small retailers in Scotland, England and Wales
The data was monitored for 18 months – from May 2016 to October 2017 – covering the period in which standardised packaging was introduced and fully-branded products phased out.
The average difference between RRP and sales price increased from 0.36 per cent above RRP in May 2016, to 1.37 per cent in October 2017, when plain packaging was mandatory.
The study, published in the journal Tobacco Control, said: ‘Despite tobacco companies emphasising the importance of RRP, small retailers implemented small increases above RRP as standardised packaging was introduced.
‘Consequently, any intended price changes by tobacco companies in response to the legislation (to increase affordability or brand positioning) may be confounded by retailer behaviour, and such deviation may increase consumer price sensitivity.’
Britain was the second country to sell cigarettes in the ‘world’s ugliest colour’ – according to market research – in May last year after Australia in 2012.
Tobacco companies were given a one year transitional period to allow retailers to sell off old stock. Many have spent millions campaigning since 2010 going against the introduction of plain stock.
Kruti Shrotri, policy manager at Cancer Research UK, who funded the study, said: ‘The tobacco industry were clearly saying anything they could to try and undermine this health measure and protect their profits.’
There are 7.2 million adult smokers in Britain, latest figures suggest, but this would reduce by 250,000 with an increase of 3.5 per cent in price.
Research published in May last year suggested that a one per cent increase (10p) in the price of tobacco would reduce consumption by as much as 0.69 per cent.
Smoking now kills seven million people a year – almost double the number recorded in 2000, according to the World Health Organization.
COULD A COLOUR STOP YOU FROM SMOKING?
It has been described as a dreary mix of tar, vomit and olive, but a shade of drab brown widely regarded as the world’s ugliest colour is helping to save lives.
The unpleasant greeny-brown hue has replaced the brightly coloured packaging that currently adorns cigarette packets in a number of countries.
Officially known as Pantone 448 C, the brown-green tint is used on tobacco products in several countries after it was picked out by a marketing company as the colour most likely to put off buyers.
It is likely that many other countries will also follow the lead of countries including Australia, UK, France, Norway and Sweden by adopting the unattractive shade for its lack of appeal.
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