14 May 2018Trademarks

Plain packaging has failed to make significant impact, tobacco group claims

Research has indicated that plain packaging of cigarettes has failed to make an impact in the UK, while counterfeit tobacco products are on the rise.

The news comes one year after plain packaging legislation was introduced in the UK.

Since May 2017, all tobacco sold in the UK must be in an olive green colour, with health warnings covering 65% of the front and back of every packet.

While the legislation may have been designed to improve public health, it limited trademark owners’ ability to promote their marks and branding.

Data from the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association ( TMA), released today, May 14, indicated that plain packaging is failing, with independent evidence even showing that smoking levels in the UK have increased.

According to the TMA, fake plain packaged cigarettes have been found across the UK, with “millions” turning to the black market to purchase their tobacco. The TMA said that a “single pack design” is easier and cheaper to replicate than traditional branded cigarettes.

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs have said that this is because counterfeiters would only need one template to work from as packaging is identical except the brand name.

The Smoking Toolkit Study, carried out by the University College London, demonstrated an increase in people smoking year on year for the months December 2017 to March 2018 compared to the previous year. December 2017 and January 2018 both recorded a 0.4% increase in smokers year on year, with February 2018 recording a 1.8% increase and March 2018 a 0.6% increase.

“The recent evidence shows that plain packaging appears to be failing in the UK, like everywhere it has been introduced,” said Giles Roca, director of the TMA. Plain packaging has also been introduced in Australia and France.

He said that it is not having the intended health impacts, while it is giving the black market a boost.

“The government should recognise that plain packaging is failing and undertake a full and immediate review of this policy,” he concluded.

When plain packaging was announced in the UK, Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International lodged a challenge.

The English High Court rejected the challenge in 2016 and it was later upheld by the English Court of Appeal. In April 2017, the UK Supreme Court refused permission to appeal.

Did you enjoy reading this story?  Sign up to our free daily newsletters and get stories like this sent straight to your inbox.

Today's top stories

Ancestry.com accused of infringing patent

Xiaomi called out in telecoms patent dispute

LOT Network gives start-ups free patents and membership

Already registered?

Login to your account

To request a FREE 2-week trial subscription, please signup.
NOTE - this can take up to 48hrs to be approved.

Two Weeks Free Trial

For multi-user price options, or to check if your company has an existing subscription that we can add you to for FREE, please email Adrian Tapping at atapping@newtonmedia.co.uk

More on this story

12 April 2017   The UK Supreme Court refused to allow an appeal from the tobacco industry yesterday, in a final domestic decision on plain packaging.