SNP plans to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes could lead to a rise in counterfeiting – say critics.
The party hopes to introduce plain packaging for all tobacco companies and force them to display bigger health warnings.
But critics and the tobacco lobby have warned that standardised packaging could also have damaging effects.
They say that it could lead to a price war resulting in increased smoking rates thanks to cheap cigarettes and also to a rise in counterfeiting.
Dr Enrico Bonadio, a law lecturer at the University of Abertay, said: “If the UK adopts plain packaging, a price war is a probability.
“If there was a price war and the price goes down, the number of smokers would go up in Scotland.
“By reducing price, you stimulate consumption. It would be a boomerang effect.
“With no logos, it would also be easier for counterfeiting by companies and criminals. That’s an argument used by opponents of plain packaging. It could be a problem.
“We need to consider the knock-on-effects if plain packaging is brought in.”
The plans also face a major hurdle as the power to control tobacco is still a matter reserved to the Government in London.
An SNP spokesman said: “The SNP is favourably disposed to this idea and if Westminster will not do it then the powers should be transferred to the Scottish Parliament.
“The SNP Government has already acted to end cigarette displays in shops and increase the age of purchasing tobacco to 18, and it’s important that we have the powers to do more in the interests of public health in Scotland.”
In April, Australia became the first country to ban brand images and colours on cigarette packages. .
The action was praised by the World Health Organisation but tobacco firms claimed that there is no evidence that these measures would reduce consumption.
Overall smoking rates in Scotland have fallen from 31% in 1999 to 24% in 2009.
But in most deprived areas if Scotland the rates are still as high as 45%.
Doctor Crawford Moodie, of the Institute of Social Marketing at Stirling University, gave a presentation to the European Commission on plain packaging.
He said that the plain in Australia for dark brown packaging has been shown to increase the numbers quitting smoking.
He added: “Even if there was a price war, plain packaging is still a major deterrent.
“Scotland has always been a champion for the UK and if it was in our capacity to introduce plain packaging or larger pictorial warnings, I think Scotland would likely introduce that.”
Anti-smoking group ASH Scotland recommends plain packaging. A spokeswoman said: “We would like Scotland’s political parties to have a manifesto commitment to a tobacco-control strategy for Scotland.
“As part of that strategy we would like to see the Scottish Government call Westminster to introduce standardised, unbranded packaging of tobacco products.”
The UK Department of Health reiterated its view, given in a June 2010 parliamentary answer, that more evidence is needed on the impact of plain packaging.
Christopher Ogden, chief executive of the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association, said: “The TMA is strongly opposed to the principle of plain packaging.
Moves to prevent tobacco companies from exercising their intellectual property rights would place the Government in breach of legal obligations.
“Plain packs are also likely to lead to further increase in the smuggling of tobacco products and plain packs would make it so much easier for a counterfeiter to copy than existing branded packs – making it even more difficult for a consumer to differentiate between genuine and counterfeit products.”