Fears that plain packaging for tobacco products would lead to sizeable job losses at JTI’s Ballymena plant have been branded ‘alarmist’ by an SDLP councillor.
Declan O’Loan welcomed a decision by the Northern Ireland Assembly not to block a measure currently in the House of Lords which would mean that plain packaging legislation would apply in Northern Ireland.
However he expressed concern that the Legislative Consent Motion is framed in such a way as to allow it to still be rejected by the Assembly.
He said:“I believe that this is a sensible and appropriate measure to consider. If it succeeds in discouraging some young people from starting smoking, then that will be a good thing.
“Of course we have a large JTI factory in Ballymena and it is a major employer. As long as cigarettes are made, I welcome that employment. I discount totally the suggestion which has been made that if plain packaging were introduced, thirty per cent of that employment would be lost.
“I think that that is alarmist and intended to cloud sensible debate on this issue. If plain packaging were to have such a drastic effect on tobacco sales, I don’t see how anyone could resist it given the health consequences. I think its effect would actually be much smaller, but I think there would be an effect, and that is why it should be done.”