The chief executive of Bristol-based Imperial Tobacco has attacked government plans to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes as “anti-business”.
Alison Cooper, the 46-year-old cigar-smoking chief executive of the world’s fourth-largest cigarette company by market share, said she had written to the government for clarification about the Department of Health’s consultation.
“It’s not just a tobacco issue any more, it’s about government’s role…[and] a precedent for other businesses in terms of this is where governments can go,” Mrs Cooper told the Financial Times.
“This is not about a health issue at all. This is anti-business.”
At the weekend, Ms Cooper said the industry in the UK would “absolutely” challenge through the courts efforts by the Government to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes and other products.
Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, last month published a consultation on plans to strip cigarette packets of their colourful logos and branding, which tobacco companies argue will do little to curb smoking and make it easier for criminals to gain a bigger slice of the market.
Imperial, whose UK brands include Lambert & Butler, Richmond, Embassy and Golden Virginia, says removing all logos and branding from cigarette packs will not reduce smoking – but could also increase sales of bootlegged products.
The company though rejected the suggestion its revenues would be substantially hit. Last week, it beat market expectations in the six months to the end of March with adjusted operating profits of £1.524bn against a market consensus forecast of £1.520bn. Earnings per share were 93.1p against a consensus estimate of 92.7p.