Plain-package cigarettes 'will cost jobs in Westcountry'
Enforcing plain packaging on cigarettes could cost thousands of jobs in the Westcountry and put scores of corner shops out of business, it has been claimed.
New research carried out by The Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) says the impact on the region will be dire if the Government presses ahead with the scheme.
Dave Matthews, who runs the post office at Trispen, near Truro, and is the local spokesman for the Tobacco Retailers' Alliance, said the warning was not an overstatement.
"The Government likes to say that it is supporting small businesses, but in this case that are not on our side at all.
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"I think a lot of jobs are in danger."
Australia was the first country to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes and Government plans to follow suit in England are currently on hold pending a review.
Mr Matthews said that if it went ahead it would be "playing into the hands" of tobacco smugglers as they would no longer have to bother copying branded boxes.
"The smugglers don't care who they sell to or how old the people are who buy their tobacco.
"I work in one of the most regulated industries in the UK and we have to make sure the people buying tobacco are old enough."
He said "pick time" would be increased for customers who would take longer to choose their favourite brand at the till, creating queues which could deter other customers.
Mr Matthews' fears are backed up by the Cebr research which estimates 2,732 jobs could be lost from small independent retailers across the whole of the South West if plain packaging for tobacco was introduced.
The organisation said it believed smuggling would boom and people who usually visited independent retailers would take their custom elsewhere as they faced longer queues, forcing the closure of countless village stores.
In the South West a further 83 and 142 jobs would expected to be lost from tobacco manufacturing and in the wider economy.
That means the total number of full-time job losses in the South West could reach over 2,800, said Oliver Hogan, head of microeconomics at the Cebr.
"Our findings show that the potential impact of this plain packaging policy could be traumatic for the High Street.
"We predict an overall revenue drop for small independent retailers of over £300 million from the lost tobacco and non-tobacco sales of these migrating tobacco customers.
"This would mean 6,400 shops closing and the loss of up to 30,000 out of the 182,300 jobs in small independent retailing across the UK.
"The evidence supports our conclusion that tobacco customers will flock to illegal street vendors, buy bulk from abroad and make purchases from larger stores.
"Thousands will lack the patience to queue for the till in a local shop as a small staff tries to find the right cigarettes among the plain packaging.
"With so many local communities dependent on small independent retailers, such effects would have negative implications in terms of the wider social impact of small independent retailers."