Tobacconists state that the directive provisions on 75% coverage of health for cigarette packs will make them “quasi generic”, easier and cheaper to counterfeit.

The tobacco industry states that plain packs are easy to counterfeit, yet it is well known that counterfeiters are already able to copy any paper-based material at short notice - even the most sophisticated tax stamps (2). Luk Joossens (3), a leading international tobacco control expert, says: “the reality is that at present all packs are easy to counterfeit and that plain packaging will not make any difference”.

Experience has proven that illicit trade of cigarettes is prompted by supply and price rather than by the packaging of the product. “Illicit trade is the outcome of classic demand and supply: demand by smokers for cheaper cigarettes and supply by both legal and illegal tobacco manufacturers, looking for more profit, more sales, increasing market shares or new markets. It is facilitated by corruption, the presence of criminal networks and weak government enforcement capacity (4)” said Mr. Joossens. Qualitative research among young adult smokers in Scotland has shown that plain packaging has no impact on the decision to buy counterfeit cigarettes, which was driven by availability and price”. (5)

Tobacco control experts are calling for strong anti-counterfeit technology to identify forging, as every visible item on a pack of cigarette is potentially easy to counterfeit. Large pictorial health warnings will make it as difficult to fake cigarette packs as any other pack. In addition, we support a strategy that includes greater resources for improved intelligence, risk profiling, tasking and coordination to detect and disrupt the supply of illicit tobacco products.

We urge policymakers to think also of the millions of people living in Europe whose life is cut short or who are suffering from debilitating diseases, such as asthma, COPD and cancers, such as lung cancer, and the economic impact of these smoking-related conditions in terms of working days lost, unemployment, disability and productivity. We call upon tobacconists and newsagents to think carefully about their responsibilities towards their communities, including their communities’ health, and encourage the use of structural support to help them diversify their dependency on a toxic product that kills half of all those who use it.

Signatories: ECC - The European COPD Coalition; The Association of European Cancer Leagues (ECL); The European Public Health Alliance (EPHA); The Smoke Free Partnership (SFP); and Cancer Research UK.

Notes to the editors

(1) Tobacconists to demonstrate, Europolitics

(2) Hill M, Digital Tax Verification (DTV) Codentify, The industry Standard, October 2010 and Philip Morris International, Codentify, Brochure, 2012

(3) Luk Joossens, European Cancer Leagues and Belgian Foundation against Cancer

(4) Smuggling the Tobacco Industry and Plain Pack, Cancer Research UK report, Luk Joossens

(5) Moodie C, Hastings G, Joossens L, European Journal of Public health, 26 March 2011

Contact information

. ECC - The European COPD Coalition

Catherine Hartmann, +32(0)2 2305933,

.The Association of European Cancer Leagues (ECL)

Emma Woodford +32(0)2 2562000,

Luk Joossens, +32(0)48688912

.The European Public Health Alliance (EPHA)

Javier Delgado Rivera +32(0) 2 230 3056,

. The Smoke Free Partnership (SFP)

Anca Toma Friedlaender +32 (0) 22 38 53 62 and M: +32 (0) 498 457 367,

. Cancer Research UK

Layla Theiner, +44 (0) 20 3469 8127,

Info about the signatories

ECC - The European COPD Coalition

The European COPD Coalition (ECC) is a not for profit association bringing together respiratory organisations representing health professionals and patients groups, and life science firms. We are committed to raising awareness about Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases (COPD) and its social and economic impacts among European policy makers and stakeholders, seeking ways to reduce the burden of these diseases through joint action and advocacy, developing and implementing a comprehensive EU public health policy on COPD and by being a key facilitator of COPD policy initiatives at European level.

The Association of European Cancer Leagues (ECL)

The role of the Association of European Cancer Leagues is to facilitate the collaboration between cancer leagues throughout Europe and to influence EU and pan-European policies. The central purpose of ECL is to identify and promote common strategies in cancer control to achieving health equity in cancer prevention, treatment and services.

The major fields of activity for the member cancer leagues include cancer prevention, public information, professional education and assistance, as well as information services and rehabilitation for patients and their families and relatives, participation in, and support for, cancer research.

The European Public Health Alliance (EPHA)

EPHA is a change agent. We are a dynamic member-led organisation made up of public health NGOs, patient groups, health professionals, and disease groups, working together to improve health and strengthen the voice of public health in Europe. EPHA is a member of, among others, the Social Platform, the European Public Health and Agriculture Consortium (EPHAC), the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), and the EU Civil Society Contact Group. Our mission is to bring together the public health community to provide thought leadership and facilitate change; to build public health capacity to deliver equitable solutions to European public health challenges, to improve health and reduce health inequalities. Our vision is of a Europe with universal good health and well-being, where all have access to a sustainable and high quality health system: A Europe whose policies and practices contribute to health, both within and beyond its borders.

The Smoke Free Partnership (SFP)

The Smoke Free Partnership is a strategic, independent and flexible partnership between the European Respiratory Society (, Cancer Research UK ( and the European Heart Network ( We aim to promote tobacco control advocacy and policy research at EU and national levels in collaboration with other EU health organisations and EU tobacco control networks.

For additional information, evidence and data, please consult the SFP website at

Cancer Research UK

Cancer Research UK is the largest independent funder of cancer research in Europe. In 2011/2012, we spent £332 million on research. We receive no Government funding for our research – it all comes from the generosity of the public. Cancer Research UK funds research into all aspects of cancer from exploratory biology to clinical trials of novel and existing drugs as well as epidemiological studies and prevention research. Our world-class scientists, doctors and nurses collaborate with cancer experts in over 50 countries. We have led the way in key aspects of cancer control, particularly tobacco control.

Last modified on February 4 2013.