JTI has blamed the impending ban on small packs of rolling tobacco and cigarettes for its proposal to close its factory in Lisnafillan, Northern Ireland, in a move which would lead to the loss of more than 800 local jobs.

North Antrim MP Ian Paisley described the news as a “body blow” to the Northern Ireland economy.

Compliance with the revised EU Tobacco Products Directive (EUTPD) would “significantly reduce the number of pack formats” that the factory produced, JTI said in a statement.

It also blamed pressure from excise tax and the illicit trade for the need to review its manufacturing operations. 

Production could be moved to other facilities, potentially in Poland and Romania. Other tobacco product manufacturing in Germany would also be relocated, with the exception of Ploom-related production. 

Effective in 2016, the EUTPD will ban cigarettes in packs of less than 20 and rolling tobacco in pouches of less than 30g - wiping out almost 40% of the current market.

Picture and text health warnings will also be placed at the top of cigarette packs and cover 65% of the front and back, and 50% of the sides.

JTI is now consulting on the proposals with a view to closing factories between 2016 and 2018.