Ian Paisley MP and JTI invited the MP for East Antrim Sammy Wilson for a presentation and factory tour in Ballymena last week. Mr Wilson commented on how much of an eye-opener the day had been for him and the realisation of the negative impact that the proposed European Tobacco Directive will have on employment and the local economy if it is approved.
“The employment of 954 well paid workers in the JTI factory makes an important contribution to the local economy of Ballymena and constituencies such as my own where many of the employees live. Jobs such as these are not easy to attract and it says much for the skills and dedication of the workforce that JTI have invested £265mn of their own money into the Ballymena plant increasing its competitiveness and securing local employment.
The EU directive on Tobacco products to be voted on in Brussels this week will put hundreds of these jobs in jeopardy, will not reduce smoking and will be an early Christmas present to the increasingly sophisticated criminal gangs who will see demand for illegal and higher tar cigarettes soar. Revenue to the government will also be lost adding to the £2.9bn of revenue which is currently being lost because of illegal cigarette sales. Small businesses especially shops will find that sales which are an important part of their revenue, will be lost to the criminals.
The directive which includes plain packaging, larger pack sizes, standardised packages, banning identity measures which makes fakes easier to detect, banning flavouring and size variations are a criminal’s charter. There is no evidence that the measures will prevent current smokers from continuing to smoke nor is there any evidence that they will dissuade young people from taking up smoking. No surveys have shown that packet design encourage young people to start smoking it is usually peer pressure or family experience. Only education will address these causes.
The EU proposals are another example of the destructive power of Europe when it comes to employment and the way in which the EU reflects the views of well organised well financed pressure groups without regard to the consequences for jobs, local impact of policies or the unintended consequences of the ill considered policies.”
MP for the area Ian Paisley also commented on the visit and the ongoing issues that were raised.
‘It was a pleasure to welcome my colleague to the JTI factory and it was a great opportunity for us both to hear in great depth the extent of the impact on employment within our constituencies and the damage to the local economy that the new European Tobacco Directive proposals would cause if they were to come to fruition.’