An Earlston newsagent has said he fears various tobacco legislation could force local convenience stores out of business.
Arfan Tariq, who runs the Costcutter shop at The Square with his wife and brother, has questioned UK Government plans to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes after industry figures showed such legislation in Australia has failed to reduce smoking rates.
Further industry research from Australia has shown that the policy has not only burdened small retailers, but has increased illicit trade to record levels.
Cigarette sales make up the bulk of Mr Tariq’s weekly turnover, and he estimates 80 per cent of customers purchase tobacco.
He said: “I think the UK Government should look to the small businesses, which can be very important in a community.
“If it’s already been proved that plain packaging hasn’t had the impact predicted in Australia, why are we going ahead with it here?”
He added: “It’s all about crushing the small business, and more and more will go out of business.”
Mr Tariq’s premises will be subject to the tobacco display ban due to come into force in April 2015 for small shops.
He is concerned that, with customers preferring to see what they are set to buy, many smokers will turn to the black market to source tobacco.
Alongside the proposed UK legislation, Mr Tariq fears the European Union Tobacco Products Directive, which will place a ban on sales of packs of ten cigarettes, could have unintended consequences for retailers and consumers alike.
He argues many customers will choose to buy in bulk as a result of not being able to purchase a pack of ten, transferring footfall from smaller retailers to supermarkets and, potentially, actually lead to people smoking more than previously.
“I’ve asked many people what they will do, and they say they will buy cigarettes when they get their grocery shopping,” Mr Tariq said. “The customer who comes to buy ‘tens’ will start going to big supermarkets.”