The Department of Health (DoH) has confirmed a delay in plans to consult on plain packaging for tobacco products.

As predicted in Convenience Store last week, the consultation will now not get underway until Spring 2012.  It was originally planned for the winter of 2011.

The DoH has also confirmed that the consultation will be UK-wide engaging ministers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and will be accompanied by an independent evidence review.

The “complex series of issues” surrounding plain packaging had prompted the delay, the DoH said.

The ACS (Association of Convenience Stores) said it would endeavour to communicate the harm such a measure would impose on local shops to ministers.

“Generic packaging for tobacco products will create a significant burden for local shop retailers,” chief executive James Lowman said . “We welcome that Ministers will take all factor into account in deciding whether to press ahead with such a measure. ACS will seek to provide a constructive and comprehensive response to the consultation which we hope Ministers will consider carefully.”

“We do not believe that government should impose such a measure at a time when the recently enacted tobacco display ban is still to be implemented in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The confusion that this would create would be an unbearable regulatory burden on thousands of businesses.”

Plain packaging would increase service times, harm customer service, prompt a fall in tobacco prices, and fuel the illicit trade, he added.