From: Daily Express (UK)
By Kirsty Buchanan
POLICE fear that Government plans to sell cigarettes in plain packets could lead to a surge in black market sales.
Almost eight in 10 told a survey they feared ministers had not thought through potential effects on crime, with 86 per cent believing it would make it easier to sell counterfeit cigarettes.
This, in turn, could fund ruthless crime gangs across Britain.
Children were more likely to smoke black-market cigarettes because they would be cheaper, said one in six of the 500 officers surveyed by Populus.
Former Scotland Yard detective chief inspector Will O’Reilly, who has been studying the illicit tobacco trade, said: “There are 269 cigarette brand variants available in the UK providing a high level of complexity for criminals attempting to counterfeit cigarettes.
“Even with this complexity the black market thrives, so it stands to reason that the result will be an open playing field for criminals to even further exploit.
“The UK has a widespread problem with illicit tobacco. The illicit trade starts at the very top of the criminal fraternity.
“The same organised criminal networks who historically have dealt in hard drugs, illegal firearms, people trafficking and terrorism are now organising the illicit trade of tobacco.
“Police officers face difficult times balancing demands on their resources. It is hardly surprising officers fear they would not have the resources to deal with the problems stemming from the introduction of plain packaging.”
The Government’s consultation on the proposal, which Health Secretary Andrew Lansley believes will cut teenage rates of smoking, ends next week.
Critics warn the policy will lead to more crime, more smuggling and a greater threat to health as cheap fakes flood the market. At the same time 5,000 British workers who package cigarettes could be out of a job.
A second Populus poll, for cigarette giant Philip Morris reveals voters are not convinced about the health benefits or even the need for such a ban.
Just six per cent said smoking was the “most serious” issue facing under-18s.
Almost half, 43 per cent, said they were more worried about drug abuse, 28 per cent singled out binge drinking and 23 per cent feared bullying.