Plain facts of cigarette packs opened my eyes to effects on small businesses
by Jo James - chief executive of Kent Invicta
I had a meeting with a representative from Phillip Morris
Ltd to give my view on plain packaging for cigarettes.
To be honest, it wasn't something to which I had given a lot of
thought. I believe this is being looked into as the next step to
follow on from the point-of-sale display ban.
I know how inconvenient this has proved - only last week I
queued up in the supermarket to get my lottery ticket, but it took
me twice as long as usual because the cashier was continually
opening and closing the cupboard to serve cigarettes.
Whether or not putting them out of sight has reduced the number
sold, I have no idea.
I think the government needs to do more to discourage smoking as
the cost to our NHS service for smoking-related conditions is a
Hiding them away - like some sort of dirty secret - is one
way, putting them in plain packets could be seen as another
That's assuming people buy for the look of the pack, rather than
the content inside. Thinking about it, if cigarettes were to come
in plain packets then the cost of production must go down. Will
that saving be passed on to the customer?
Is this the way to stop young people getting into the habit?
It's probably going to be ineffective for existing adult smokers as
they know their brand and probably don't really care what the pack
I remember many, many years ago when my Nan used to
smoke, it was all the rage to have your cigarette pack inside a
pretty case. You don't see many of these cases on sale now –
perhaps there's a business opportunity here!
Anyway, back to the meeting. My eyes were opened to the
potential effects on smaller retailers.
It will of course increase the customer transaction time if all
the packets look the same.
And while the shop assistant's back is turned, would this not
increase the opportunity for shoplifting?
Counterfeiting will be made much easier, which would put
smokers' health further at risk, as who knows what could be put
Education costs money, but is it a better route? After the
meeting, did I think plain packaging will cost jobs, and taxpayers
billions of pounds?
If it increases black market activity, then probably yes. When
people pop to their local shop and buy their cigarettes, they may
also buy a paper and a few groceries. Would they in future bother
going to their local shop? If not, traders could lose out to the