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Fears for jobs over plan of plain cigarette packaging
Renewed fears about the impact on packaging jobs in Bradford have been raised by the Government’s decision to reconsider its stance on plain packaging of cigarettes only four months after putting the issue on the back burner.
Two leading packaging firms Weidenhammer Packaging at Buttershaw and Chesapeake at Lidget Green, between them employ around 100 people printing and producing tobacco packets.
The Chesapeake tobacco packaging business is the firm’s last remaining operation in Bradford following last week’s closure of its branded packaging finishing business which has been transferred to Newcastle.
Mike Ridgway, a former executive of both Weidenhammer and Chesapeake, is set to renew his role as co-ordinator of a packaging industry campaign to fight the plain pack proposals which he said would hit jobs in the area if implemented.
Cigarettes could be sold in plain packaging by 2015 after ministers moved to revive the policy.
The idea of banning branding was controversially shelved in July, with the Government insisting it had not bowed to tobacco industry lobbying and it wanted to see how it worked in Australia.
But Health Minister Jane Ellison said that paediatrician Sir Cyril Chantler has been asked to carry out a review of the evidence, which will be completed by March.
At the same time, changes will be made to the Children and Families Bill currently going through Parliament so the ban can be implemented quickly if recommended. She denied that introducing plain packaging had been “ruled out” over the summer.
Speaking from Brussels, where he has been involved in discussions regarding the EU Tobacco Products Directive, Mr Ridgway said the decision to revive the plain packaging issue was surprising so soon after the July decision not to proceed after public consultation produced more than 600,000 responses against plain packs.
Mr Ridgway, who is also an Ilkley Parish councillor, said: “Should plain packaging be introduced, it will obviously affect employment in the industry as a move to simplified specifications will eliminate the need for pack enhancements and features that form complexity that make counterfeiting and product copying easier for the illicit trader.
“All evidence produced so far from Australia is that there is no evidence that smoking trends are influenced by packaging and recent studies have revealed increases in the illicit and counterfeit trade have taken place during this period of time.”
He said the packaging industry had always supported regulation but believed this should be evidence based rather than subjective and there was no indication that plain packaging would work.
Non-smoking Menston and Burley-in-Wharfedale MP Philip Davies opposes the enforcing plain packaging. Mr Davies (Con, Shipley) rejected the previous plan as ‘gesture politics’.
However, lkley Conservative MP Kris Hopkins, described it as “the right and responsible approach to take.”
Mr Hopkins, added: “I am strongly supportive of this decision, both as a parent and a former smoker myself.
“Research has found that two thirds of current smokers started the habit in their childhood. And, speaking from personal experience, it is much more preferable for someone not to start smoking than to have to try to give up.
“There are strong views held on both sides of this debate. But I believe it is the duty of any government to do what it can to protect the health of the people it serves. It is not about creating a nanny state, it is about being responsible.”
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