Alison Cooper, chief executive of the FTSE 100 tobacco giant, which owns labels such as Davidoff, said the industry in the UK would “absolutely” challenge through the courts efforts by the Government to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes and other products.
Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, last month published a consultation on plans to strip cigarette packets of their colourful logos and branding, which tobacco companies argue will do little to curb smoking and make it easier for criminals to gain a bigger slice of the market.
- Plain Marlboro cigarettes pack
Tobacco companies mounted a legal challenge against similar plans in Australia, the result of which is expected within the next few months.
When asked if the industry would do the same in the UK, Ms Cooper said: “It’s absolutely something we would challenge but I’m really hoping we don’t get to that.”
Vince Cable is under mounting pressure to intervene in the bitter face-off between the tobacco industry and the Department of Health. Cigarette companies are pressing the Business Secretary to take charge of the consultation on plain packaging amid claims Mr Lansley has demonstrated a lack of “objectivity”.
Ms Cooper has written to Mr Cable and the Prime Minister expressing concern about Mr Lansley’s stance after he said last month the Government wants tobacco companies to have “no business” in the UK. Imperial Tobacco and other manufacturers such as Silk Cut-owner JTI want Cable’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to step in to ensure that issues such as the potential impact on jobs will not be lost amid the health debate.
It is estimated that 70,000 Britons are directly or indirectly employed by the tobacco industry and it contributes between £10.5bn and £12.5bn per annum to the Treasury’s coffers.
The industry calculates one in four cigarettes smoked in the UK is bought from smugglers or counterfeiters – a figure that is expected to rise if the industry is regulated more tightly.