Increase in the price of cigarettes linked to the introduction of plain packaging

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The introduction of plain cigarette packaging has led to an increase in the selling price of major brands, new research shows.

A study from the University of Stirling found that the price of top-selling cigarettes increased by almost 5% – or 38 cents more on a 20 pack – in the 18 months after the legislation was introduced.

The price of roll-your-own tobacco also increased by around 8%, or 91 pence on a 30g packet.

The researchers said their results contradicted tobacco manufacturers’ predictions that plain packaging, which became mandatory in May last year, would lead to lower prices and greater affordability.

Dr Nathan Critchlow of the Institute for Social Marketing in Stirling said: “Tobacco companies were strongly opposed to plain packaging.

“They seemed adamant that, if the policy was implemented, brands would only be able to compete on price, which would lead to lower prices, greater affordability and, as a result, increased consumption.

“Our study, however, provides early evidence that these concerns about falling prices appear to be unfounded.

“We have found that in addition to selling prices, recommended retail prices have also increased. This suggests that the tobacco companies were the driving force behind the price hikes – and that their predictions of lower prices and increased affordability were meant to deter the government from implementing the policy.

The team analyzed electronic point-of-sale data from 500 small retailers in Scotland, England and Wales during the 12-month transition period, and then for six months after the legislation became mandatory.

The average price per cigarette and the price per gram – both adjusted for inflation – were examined for 20 of the major branded tobacco products and their standardized equivalents.

The study was funded by the Cancer Policy Research Center of Cancer Research UK and was published in the international journal Addiction.

Kruti Shrotri of Cancer Research UK said: “Plain packaging of cigarettes is an effective public health measure to reduce the appeal of tobacco to young people.

“The tobacco industry was clearly saying all it could to try to undermine this sanitary measure and protect its profits.”


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