House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee Report on Illicit Trade of Tobacco

Saturday 14 June 2014

The campaigning health charity ASH has welcomed the latest report of the Home Affairs Select Committee on the illicit tobacco trade, published today. The report states very clearly that “the decision on standardised packaging should be driven by health reasons”.

The report gives no support to the tobacco industry’s persistent claims that the standardised packaging of cigarettes will lead to an increase in illicit trade. Indeed it notes HMRC’s assessment that “plain packaging is not going to create any new risks for its operations, but it could well change the profile of the illicit market”. It concludes that any potential risks could be mitigated by improvements in tracking and tracing of products due to be implemented under the revised EU Tobacco Products Directive. In fact, it’s already the case that security features already present on cigarette packs (coded numbers, covert anti-counterfeit marks and others) will also be present on standardised packs. Tobacco industry claims that illicit trade has increased in Australia have been dismissed by the Australia Government. [1]

The report does make important recommendations about how co-operation between agencies fighting illicit trade could be improved, including HM Revenue and Customs, Border Force, police and local authority trading standards. This should help to make further cuts in illicit trade in the UK, which halved from around 20% in 2000 to 9% in 2012/13.

Commenting, ASH Chief Executive Deborah Arnott said:

“Some people in and around the tobacco industry probably hoped that this report would give some backing to their frequent claims that standardised packs for cigarettes would increase illicit trade. It doesn’t. Having listened to both the tobacco industry and enforcement agencies including the HMRC, the Committee’s members have instead made welcome recommendations about the need for further efforts to co-ordinate enforcement work in the future. The UK has proved time and again that you can have high tobacco taxes and strict public health rules about smoking, and still fight tobacco smuggling.”

Notes and Links:

Action on Smoking and Health is a health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco use. For more information see:

[1] See p.48 of the Explanatory Memorandum to the Australian Excise Tariff Amendment (Tobacco) Bill 2014;query=Id%3A%22legislation%2Fems%2Fr5172_ems_78ed6212-03a3-4669-9947-c3fc17c8b5e0%22;rec=0