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Stirling Uni study finds plain packaging led to price hike for branded tobacco

A new study’s revealed small retailers in Scotland and across the UK sold fully-branded tobacco products at higher prices – ahead of standardised packaging being brought in.

Experts at Stirling University found shops charged more than the RRP for the products, as they became rarer.

Researchers say this was contrary to advice from the tobacco industry.

They claim it’s a sign of the persuasive nature of fully-branded tobacco packaging.

Dr Nathan Critchlow, of the Institute of Social Marketing (ISM) at Stirling, led the work, funded by the Cancer Prevention Research Centre at Cancer Research UK and published in the journal Tobacco Control.

“The introduction of standardised packaging, fully implemented in May 2017, removed fully-branded packaging, prohibited price marking, restricted what brand names could be used, and increased the minimum pack size,” Dr Critchlow explained.

“Tobacco companies emphasised to retailers that they should sell at RRP or less as these changes were introduced to keep customers loyal. Our study explored whether retailers followed this advice.

“We found that, contrary to the advice, small retailers sold leading tobacco products higher than the RRPs. In particular, they increased prices above RRP for fully-branded packs as they were phased out – even those which had the prices marked on the packaging.”

He added: “Once the legislation became mandatory, small retailers continued to sell leading tobacco products above RRP. It is possible that they used product changes introduced under the policy, such as larger minimum pack size and removal of price marking, to opportunistically increase the profit from tobacco sales.” 

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