AN INTERNATIONAL crime expert has warned that if the Government go ahead with their plans to alter tobacco packaging then smokers could be at risk from killer fake cigarettes.
The Scottish Government are set to make a decision this week on whether or not to change fag packets to a new plain and unbranded box.
Supporters of the move such as Cancer Research UK claim the cosmetic shake-up will help put off kids from lighting up.
But Roy Ramm, former Commander of Specialist Operations at New Scotland Yard, said that it could open the door to smugglers who flood the streets with knock-off cigarettes containing arsenic, asbestos and even rat poison.
He said: “The people who bring these things in are serious criminals. They certainly aren’t going to have any regard for health and the content of the cigarettes.
“Analysis shows each fake cigarette is 50 times more dangerous than an ordinary cigarette – some have even been shown to contain arsenic, asbestos or rat poison.”
Mr Ramm has investigated the underworld nature of the illegal tobacco trade for more than 30 years.
He said it would be “disastrous” if the packaging were to change as it is the only tool that allows customers to tell what is genuine and what is fake.
Mr Ramm added: “The counterfeiters won’t have to replicate the style of labelling or printing.
“The government needs to think about the consequences.”
But Cancer Research UK maintains that if the move is given the go-ahead then it will not have any impact on smuggling.
A Scottish Government spokesman said a decision has not been made yet.
The spokesman said: “Any decision will be taken only after consideration is given to consultation responses, evidence and other relevant information.
“Tobacco use remains one of Scotland’s most significant public health challenges.”