Archives For Plain Packaging

The North Antrim MP has dismissed government announcement to introduce plan packaging on cigarettes as “a con on public health.”

He said, “This standardised packaging measure has been announced in the guise of being a health measure yet there is not a shred of evidence that a single life will be saved by the measure. This is the UK over-regulating an already heavily regulated industry and makes a mockery of evidence based regulations and taxation policy.

“Furthermore it is a dream come true for the counterfeiters who will now be able to concentrate on making one rip-off package instead of a host of designs that were previously copied.

“I’m all for regulating this industry given the dangers associated with smoking. That is not in question nor is my commitment to public health. But let’s not con people into the false belief that this is a health measure when there is no evidence to say that plain packs will save lives, that is just ridiculous. However the government has set its mind to doing this and it is regrettable.

“I have warned the impact these measures will have on the industry and just this week we have seen that over-regulation from Europe and the UK seal the fate of JTI in Ballymena with the loss of 1000 manufacturing jobs, all on the pretence that these regulations will stop people smoking.

“They have certainly stopped British manufacturing jobs but the same products will now be made outside the UK and continue to be sold here. I think most can see through the nonsense of such a policy.

“I fear two further things as a result; that the timeframe to close JTI instead of being stretched to mid 2017 could in fact now contract to 2016 thus creating more pressure on the local economy and secondly that the regulation brigade will now turn their attention to sweets, confectionary, drinks and foods, to try over-regulate and control these products also. “

JTI Closure

January 22, 2015

“It is extremely disappointing that the complete factory closure has now been announced. Since the initial announcement of the consultation before Christmas I have continued to lobby the UK government to reconsider the introduction of plain-packaging and delay the Tobacco Products Directive in light of the lack of evidence to suggest their introduction would have any positive impact on smoking statistics within the United Kingdom whilst the economic impact on Ballymena would be devastating.
I have directly lobbied the Prime Minister, Secretary of State and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. However the die has been cast and the tentacles of european bureaucracy have reached in and stripped this factory bare.
This is one of the biggest single job losses in Northern Ireland since the Harland and Wolff shipyard redundancies.
With the consultation period now complete and the factory closure confirmed, it is the responsibility of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment and the Department of Employment and Learning to look to re-skill these exceptionally experienced and able staff in order for them to find new employment before the factory finally closes in early 2017. I know that the departments have already demonstrated a commitment towards this.
The Prime Minister this week stated that the UK is to become the factory of Europe. The challenge is now before him to include Northern Ireland in that vision and deliver new jobs to this region.”

MPs Fight EU Tobacco Proposals

November 19, 2013

North Antrim MP Ian Paisley and East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson met with the Economic Secretary to the Treasury Nicky Morgan MP on Monday to discuss the proposed EU Tobacco Product Directives (TPD).
The Northern Ireland MPs requested the meeting to express their serious concerns over the proposals and the severe negative impact the directives would have on the local economy, the significant number of job losses that would ensue and the boom that the illicit tobacco and smuggling industries would enjoy should they be implemented.

The EU proposals are to make the minimum pack size of ‘roll your own’ tobacco 40grams as well as abolishing packs of 10 cigarettes, as well as introducing plain packaging on tobacco products.
Mr Paisley explained “JTI Gallaher have a large factory in North Antrim, with almost a thousand employees currently based on the site. Should the proposals of minimum pack sizes and plain packaging come to fruition on December 10th then the factory, based in Ballymena, would have to confirm over 300 job losses quite literally overnight. To put this is to context, 300 job losses in the town of Ballymena is the equivalent of almost 13000 job losses in Birmingham.”
Priti Patel MP, has also raised concerns from a retail perspective about the damaging effect the proposals would have on independent and small retailers, who are already operating within very thin profit margins. She also added that if the minimum a consumer has to spend on a packet of roll your own tobacco is £16, as would be the case in the United Kingdom if minimum pack sizes were 40grams, then the temptation to purchase smuggled cigarettes from mainland Europe and counterfeit products would often be too great to turn down, when such products are being marketed at a quarter of the price.
The plain packaging proposal incorporated in the TPD, which poses a serious threat to legitimate trade, will almost undoubtedly cause an increase in illicit sales. Sammy Wilson explained “Plans to ban packs of 10 cigarettes and small packs of hand rolling tobacco will have a disproportionate impact on Ballymena because these are tobacco products made for the UK only. The reason for the demand for smaller packs is the high level of tax in the UK, if they disappear then the cheapest price becomes the one offered by the illegal trader. Furthermore, out of anywhere else across the continent of Europe, Ballymena stands to lose the most from this EU policy. The impact of the job losses at the factory will be catastrophic for these employees, their families and the local businesses in the area.”
Nicky Morgan MP highlighted how smuggling and illicit trade are often perceived as ‘victimless crimes’ and there is a misconception that no one is adversely affected by such activity taking place. However the point was highlighted that these criminals are often involved in an array of illegal activity such as trafficking, prostitution and drug dealing, often funded by the money generated by the illicit tobacco industry.
Everyone was in agreement that it was sensible to wait and see the impact that plain packaging has had in Australia with regards to the economy, crime levels and numbers of people smoking. In relation to this, The Petrol Retailers Association last week cited a publication by KPMG confirming that the plain packaging of tobacco is promoting the illicit trade. The Study – Illicit Tobacco in Australia – shows ‘The illicit tobacco market is now at 13.3% of total consumption – up from 11.8% in the previous year, and at the highest rate ever recorded.’
Introducing such proposals has been discussed in the past. When addressing the potential introduction of new restrictions on cigarette production in 2008, the Labour government commented “It will be worthless and counterproductive to introduce such measures unless the issue of cheap illicit tobacco is dealt with.” Clearly the illicit tobacco trade issue has in no way been ‘dealt with’ and is enjoying some of its most lucrative ever profit margins.
Mr Paisley concluded “Time is now a luxury that we do not have, given that this will be voted on in less than three weeks. We have done everything we can to stress the fact that the economic impact of the TPD is reality, the job losses we have referred to will happen and illicit trade will definitely increase. Having met with Mrs Morgan today we are confident she will bring a compelling argument, with the facts and statistics required to back it up, to the Department of Health, who are supporting the TPD with no proof or evidence to suggest that it will succeed in reducing the number of people smoking in the UK.”


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.

 JTI 2


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.’

Ian Paisley MP reaction to job loss at Gallaher plant Ballymena

Speaking after the announcement that 40 contract jobs at JTI are to be relocated, Ian Paisley said:

“I obviously regret the fact that 40 contractors at Gallahers are no longer employed by the company.

After discussions with JTI, it is clear that the jobs can no longer be retained at the factory for a number of factors and are being relocated to Poland.

This should serve as a stark warning to all those who remain intent on campaigning against this company that directly provides £60million to the local wage economy.

We still have around 1000 jobs secure at this site, but wreckless Government policies such as Plain Packaging which I have continuously fought against, will not serve to help local employment in Ballymena  nor will they achieve any health objectives. It is paramount that common sense prevails and people realise that ill-thought out policies will destroy livelihoods through job loss without serving to reduce levels of smoking.

This time it isn’t as bad as it could have been, but my heart does go out to the 40 who have been let go and I can only hope that they find employment elsewhere as quickly as possible.

We must all stand together moving forward in a bid to protect local jobs and not to damage them.”

The UK Government has decided not to bring forward plans to introduce Plain Packaging on all tobacco products, largely due to the campaign of opposition that Ian Paisley, our local MP has carried out in Parliament. There has been an ongoing consultation surrounding the plans, carried out by the Department of Health, which attracted over 500,000 responses in opposition to the measures, a telling statistic of public feeling towards the proposals.

Last week during the Queen’s speech, which outlines Government policy agenda for the upcoming Parliament, there was no mention of plans for Plain Packaging, indicating that officials have decided against the measures.

Ian Paisley’s campaign in Parliament attracted 75 signatures from MPs on all sides of the House, worried about the impact of smuggling, loss of revenue to the Treasury and subsequent job loss that would occur should the measures be brought in. What’s more HMRC, the Serious Organised Crime Agency and the PSNI all indicated their fears that such a measure would make tackling the illicit trade of tobacco, a £3billion market in the UK, nearly impossible.

Retailers, Packaging Manufacturers, Design Agencies, Wholesalers and many more businesses throughout the UK all expressed their dismay at the measures, which they believed were certain to increase the illicit trade and cost their jobs and income dearly.

JTI, who employ 1000 people in Ballymena and contribute £57million to the local wage economy, also opposed the measures.                        

Speaking after the announcement Ian Paisley said:

“I am absolutely delighted that the Government appears to have seen sense and scrapped such a ridiculous and time-wasting proposal, especially when there is not one single shred of evidence that it will stop people smoking.

At last the Government have finally listened to the 75 MPs, the HMRC, the Serious Organised Crime Agency and the 500,000 responses to the consultation who were all opposed to this measure that was certain to increase smuggling, lose revenue for the Treasury and cost UK jobs.

Perhaps now Government can spend their time more valuably on issues that truly affect this country, such as the economy, employment and growth instead of looking to introduce naive measures that are a blatant attack on jobs and quite clearly won’t work. I’m not aware of anybody who smokes, or started smoking because they liked the colour of the packet. It’s time for sensible and effective ideas that are actually proven.

I am pleased the matter appears to have been put to bed with jobs around Ballymena more secure and not lost to the smuggler and illicit trade.”

Plain Packaging – Smuggling – Ballymena