Retailers have welcomed the early release of guidance on selling tobacco in plain packaging, seven months before the production of branded cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco comes to an end.

Anjali Karpal of Essential Convenience in Horsham, West Sussex, said information from suppliers had been urgently needed. “Up until now there has been quite a bit of confusion about if and when plain packaging was going ahead. Facts and timelines are necessary to help us plan. The news that we will soon have access to more help and advice is a good thing,” she said.

Sally Croft of Croft Stores near Silverstone, Northamptonshire, agreed. “The arrival of more information on key dates and action we need to take will be a huge help,” she said. “Plain packaging is not what concerns me the most. The ban on small pack sizes is what will require planning on our part as it will force us to make further adjustments to the gantry.”

Imperial Tobacco general manager Melvin Ruigrok said that despite the fact that certain manufacturers, including Imperial, were fighting the legislation through the courts, there was now “a need to start preparing for compliance”.

Imperial has launched a Partnering for Success starter pack. The programme is designed to “advise and support” retailers through the changes and will be distributed through its sales reps. It is also driving engagement through working groups and presentations.

JTI has produced a downloadable PDF, available now through its JTI Advance website, which provides key information on the legislation. BAT has also produced a briefing document.

The plain facts

Production of branded cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco (RYO) will be banned from 20 May 2016, but retailers will still be able to sell it until 20 May 2017. After this date retailers will only be able to sell “standardised” packs. Specialist products such as cigars and pipe tobacco will be exempt.

The packs will be olive green and feature much larger health warnings. The brand name and variant will be presented in a grey Helvetica typeface in a specified size.

Cigarette packets must contain a minimum of 20 sticks, while RYO packs must contain a minimum of 30g of tobacco.

Time to act

“It’s time to stop talking and start preparing for what’s to come, so it’s good that information and guidance is starting to filter down. This has to be taken seriously.”

Manny Patel, Manny’s Long Ditton, Surrey

”I’ve been impressed with the help I’ve had from my JTI rep. Understanding of the changes and staff training will be key to reducing the impact of plain packaging on service, so the earlier the better.”

Donna Morgan of Best-One Brownlies, Biggar