The Transcrime report argues that ‘counterfeit tobacco products have been proved to cause even more serious damage to human health’ than legal cigarettes. This is simply not true, indeed research by the Canadian government has concluded that contraband tobacco poses the same risk of harmful health effects as legal cigarettes. All smoked tobacco contains thousands of toxic substances many of which are carcinogenic. All smoked tobacco products are deadly.Without getting into detail it is hard to see how anyone can talk about 'counterfeit tobacco' as if it were a single commodity. The author seems to use the terms counterfeit and contraband interchangeably, and while it is a fair bet that much tobacco ticks both boxes they are not necessarily the same thing.
Contraband is black market: illegally traded. It is a legal product on which tax has been evaded. It may also be counterfeit (illegally produced) but need not be.
Tobacco is a regulated product. This means that its ingredients are controlled. Counterfeit tobacco imitates a legal product but its contents are – who knows what?
The Canadian government source that this piece uses does not use the word 'counterfeit'. It discusses contraband tobacco and concludes rather pointlessly that its health effects are the same as those for legal tobacco, which is rather like comparing apples with apples. It stands to reason that legally traded tobacco and illegally traded tobacco will have comparable health effects, because they are essentially the same product.
There is no evidence that the tobacco under discussion is illegal – counterfeit. Even if there were evidence that the tobacco tested by the Canadian government in this particular report were 'only' as dangerous as legitimately traded tobacco, this result would not apply to all tobacco. The whole point of branding is that a particular combination of ingredients and preparation methods earns a trade mark, and can be identified. By definition this feature is absent from counterfeit tobacco.
It is hard not to conclude that ASH has failed to grasp any of the safety concerns about plain packaging, and even that its bosses have failed to grasp the point of branding. Any of Mr Jones's constituents in Haslingden and Hyndburn feel like pointing this out?