Plain packaging is to put iconic British exports at risk as key trading partners seek retaliation over the unproven measure, senior industry figures warned today. The Consumer Packaging Manufacturers Alliance (CPMA) has expressed alarm that plain packaging could soon spread to alcohol and other sectors as a global trade dispute over the plain packaging of tobacco products risks spinning out of control.
Indonesia, a major cigarette producer, has threatened to ban alcohol branding in retaliation for governments around the world introducing plain packaging of cigarettes.
Mike Ridgway, spokesman for a number of UK packaging manufacturers, said: “We have long feared that introducing plain packs for tobacco products would eventually lead to plain packaging in other sectors. It now looks like these fears could become reality sooner than anyone expected.
“Indonesia represents a market of nearly 250m consumers and if they retaliate to plain pack cigarettes by adopting branding bans for alcohol it would affect all alcohol products sold to Indonesia from anywhere in the world – Scotch Whisky, English Ale and Somerset Cider would all have to drop their branding and packaging for grotesque graphic health warnings.
“The removal of complex brands from product categories such as tobacco, alcohol and pharmaceuticals would lead to a devastating collapse in production value in the UK’s packaging industry, not to mention the damage wrought to the sectors concerned.
“Whilst the Government’s aims of reducing the number of young people smoking should be supported, there remains absolutely no evidence that plain packaging has reduced smoking rates in the one country (Australia) where it has been introduced. Instead it has led to a rapid growth in the sale of illegal cigarettes and has triggered a trade dispute that could now engulf the alcohol industry and other sectors.
“The UK government has promised to launch a new consultation on plain packaging and based on the latest evidence, we urge them to abandon this disastrous policy with widespread unknown consequences.”