A COACHLOAD of 50 East Lancashire newsagents will head to Westminster next week to lobby MPs against government proposals to end branded cigarette packing.

They fear that plain packaging will cost them customers and encourage the black market trade in illegal and counterfeit fags.


Public health minister Jane Ellison unexpectedly announced last month the government was to proceed with proposals to ban branded images on cigarette packets before May’s general election.

With a free vote due later this month, the East Lancashire shopkeepers will tackle local MPs at parliament before Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday (FEB 11).

The trip is being organised by Blackburn newsagent and Shear Brow councillor Solly Khonat.

The vice-president of the North West District of the National Federation of Retail Newsagents said: “We hope to take a coach with 50 of our members from all over East Lancashire.

“We will lobby our MPs in the House of Commons before David Cameron answers Prime Minister Questions.

“It is extremely important to show the depth of feeling of retailers and how much this measure will impact on our business.

“It means a lot of extra time while shop assistants find customers’ required brand on their gantry.

“It will cause delay and confusion and newsagents and small shops will lose business as people go elsewhere.

“People often buy chewing gum, a newspaper and other items when they pop in for packet of cigarettes.

“With the shutters to hide cigarette displays coming in next April this is unnecessary.

“It will encourage the growth counterfeit cigarettes flooding the market creating a much greater health risk.

“We also believe it will not even achieve the objective they are seeking.

“It won’t stop young people starting smoking.”

Burnley Newsagent Habib Patel of Barnaby Fudge on Parker Lane, said: “I am not optimistic we can change the government’s mind on this.

“It will just cause delay as assistants have to try and find the right brand and cost us trade.

“In addition, it will encourage bootleggers.

“I don’t think it will stop people smoking or prevent them from starting.”

In 2012, when there was a previous consultation on plain cigarette packaging, Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle expressed concern about the move.

He said: “I don’t think plain packaging will stop any young person from taking up smoking.

“I would support anything that deters people from smoking, but this idea is not the way forward.

“I think health education is far more effective.”