Education is key to stamping out fake cigarettes

I read that Worthing’s fake cigarette rate was third highest in UK, highlighting the growing problem of illicit tobacco, with interest.

As someone who has worked in the packaging industry for over 40 years I am clear that the introduction of plain packaging for tobacco products, which the Government is currently considering, would undoubtedly make this problem even worse.

By making tobacco packaging simpler to copy the volume of counterfeit and fake cigarettes coming onto our streets will only increase.

The production of packaging is a complex process and involves not only the common 20’s carton but a range of other products all produced to exacting standards.

The printing techniques for the branding on the packs employ enhanced design features, such as embossing, debossing, hot-foil stamping and UV Varnish, amongst others, and typically use between eight and 10 unique colours from state-of-the-art printing equipment.

In contrast, pictorial health warnings which would feature on plain packaging can be produced and reproduced using low-cost printing techniques from equipment readily available in the market using just four basic print colours.

Whilst the Government’s aims of reducing the number of young people smoking should be supported, the effect of plain packaging could potentially be opposite.

Results from Germany have shown that the take-up of smoking by young people has been deterred by better education, information and cultural awareness.

This is what should be adopted in this country rather than increased regulation that will benefit the counterfeiter and producer of fake products who will gladly seize the opportunity to increase availability to the young.

Mike Ridgway

Former managing director Weidenhammer UK Ltd and spokesman for six leading packaging companies