Government decision to delay plain packets for cigarettes should be welcomed

I WRITE in response to your web site article ‘Five arrests as 100 strong task force swoop on 30 addresses as part of suspected £6m cigarette smuggling fraud’ published on July 18, highlighting the continued problem of illicit tobacco in your area.

Last week’s decision by the government to delay implementation of plain packaging for tobacco products until the emerging impact of the decision in Australia is better understood, should be welcomed by all who are concerned about counterfeit cigarettes.

Since September 2011, I have been researching the trade in illicit and counterfeit tobacco products in the UK, including the links to organised crime. This work involves liaising closely with the various law enforcement agencies that have interests in this area as well as investigations in particular known hot-spot locations across the country.

Profit margins for counterfeit tobacco products are extremely high. Just as armed robberies of the 70s and 80s made way for the drugs trade and large scale fraud in the 90s, so a new crime of choice has emerged, which carries even less risk and even greater profits. The trade in illicit tobacco has become the primary source of revenue for some criminal gangs and terrorist groups and it has already reached epidemic proportions.

As part of my engagement with Trading Standards, they have described the situation in parts of the UK as reaching “chronic proportions.”

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It is perfectly clear to anyone who has dealt with counterfeiting and the black market that the idea of putting cigarettes in plain packets would be a boon for organised crime, which so often targets children.

So I applaud the Government’s decision to wait and their ability to understand the impact of plain packaging on illicit tobacco.

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Former Scotland Yard Detective Chief Inspector

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