Banning all branding on cigarette packets would lead to a drop in sales and a £500m boost to the economy, public health experts have said.
Tobacco sales bring in meagre profits for retailers and it is estimated that if the money previously spent on cigarettes were instead used for food, drink and other items, local economies would benefit, Public Health England (PHE) said.
The Government is considering whether to finally introduce standardised packaging across the UK: a policy which was first mooted two years ago.
Ministers said last year that they would await evidence from Australia, where the measure has already been introduced.
The new predictions are based on the latest data from Australia, which show a 3.4 per cent decline in tobacco sales in 2013, after plain packs were introduced the previous year.
Public Health Minister Jane Ellison discusses standardised packaging
PHE said that a similar reduction in England would increase families’ disposable income, with the impact greatest in more deprived areas, which tend to have higher smoking rates. This money would likely be spent elsewhere, benefiting local economies, they predicted.
On average, only seven to nine per cent of the cost of tobacco products goes to retailers, compared to 20 to 30 per cent for food and drink products. John McLurey, an independent newsagent and councillor in Gateshead, said that he could make “similar profit from a pack of chewing gum as £6 pack of cigarettes”.
Professor Kevin Fenton, national director of health and wellbeing at PHE, said that standardised packs were a “powerful measure that would help save lives”.
Standardised packaging legislation would apply throughout the UK, but PHE’s analysis focused on the impacts in England.