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Meeting targets new cigarette rules
3:40pm Thursday 19th April 2012 in News
JACKIE Doyle-Price has pledged her support for borough businesses who will be affected by the Government’s tough new stance on the sale of cigarettes.
The Thurrock Tory MP met with newsagents and shop owners at Orsett Hall to discuss the potential introduction of plain packaging for cigarettes, a ban on displaying cigarettes and a duty increase of 37p per pack.
Far from towing the party line, Jackie called the display ban and plain packaging measures “irrelevant” in the battle to stop people smoking and said it would just make life harder for small businesses.
She said: “You cannot deny smoking is bad for your health, and the Health Secretary has a legitimate objective in trying to stop people smoking.
“But ultimately behavioural changes are made when people make a positive choice.
“They are less likely to make that choice with all the nanny state stuff going on, because it’s got to be your own choice.
“Let’s get the debate about business, not about smoking, that’s really the key.
“At the moment the Department of Health is skewing the agenda – it’s too much about health and not enough about business. The Cabinet needs to sit down and ask ‘is this sensible?’”
Also at the event were representatives from Imperial Tobacco and Asian Trader magazine.
Imperial’s Neil Rooke raised concerns that plain packaging for cigarettes, designed to make them less attractive, will just fuel the illegal cigarette trade, as sellers find it easier to make fakes.
Harry Brar, who runs Smokers Mart in Lakeside Shopping Centre, said cigarette sellers are having a tough time.
He said: “It’s a real struggle trying to keep the business going.
“With the 37p increase on a packet, we are just collecting money for the Government and giving it straight to them.
“We are now investing more money on a product, which we do not get any return on.”
Mr Brar said he didn’t think introducing plain packaging or a display ban on cigarettes, which comes into force for small shops in 2015, will make a difference.
He said: “Putting the smoking age up from 16 to 18 has made no difference to sales and banning smokers from shopping inside the centre has made no difference.
“This is going to make no difference to established smokers, they will still come in and ask for what they want.“ Jackie urged traders to make their voice heard and said she would be talking to fellow MPs to drum up support for businesses affected by the measures.