PROPOSED changes to the way cigarette packets are designed are putting almost 70 jobs under threat in Portsmouth.
Chesapeake Branded Packaging, in Hilsea, manufactures the cardboard cartons which the European government wants to see standardised.
The plan is for health warning pictures on cigarette packets to take up 75 per cent of the space, to remove any rounded or bevelled edges, and much of the other information that differentiates tobacco packets from each other.
Staff at Chesapeake have written a letter to Euro MPs asking them to vote against the proposals.
They say the changes will reduce the need for complex hi-tech printing and cutting techniques supplied in Portsmouth, affecting jobs and increasing the likelihood of counterfeit tobacco products flooding the streets.
The firm’s manufacturing manager, Daniel Field, said: ‘It’s a high percentage of our business – take the tobacco packaging away and we’ll have a real problem and our business won’t be sustainable.
‘It is a skilled workforce we have here, as this is not something you can learn in a couple of weeks. The longevity of staff is high here as well.
‘A lot of people have been here for a long time.’
The firm is responsible for the precision cutting that goes into making every packet, regardless of brand, using machinery and techniques which criminal counterfeiters cannot replicate.
The firm has been in existence in one guise or another in Portsmouth since 1898, moving to its current site in Limberline Road, Hilsea, in 1964.
It employs 67 people, including two apprentices, and has supported the Beneficial Foundation, which provides education, training and rehabilitation for adults, through supplying off-cuts of cardboard for its materials bank.
The firm’s print supervisor, Mark Foster, said: ‘This policy means well but a side effect will be that it is cheaper and easier to mass produce counterfeit cigarettes. Increased counterfeit production will only add to the already serious illicit trade in tobacco problem facing the country.
‘Complex print runs and constantly changing print methods and materials make counterfeiting harder.
‘The unintended consequence of this vote will be MEPs voting to increase the availability of cheap unregulated product on the market and risk jobs in Portsmouth and the south east.’
The vote will take place on Wednesday, September 10.