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With approximately 1.42 million members covering over 20 different sectors, Unite is the largest trade union in the UK and is “dedicated to serving the best interests of its members and will seek to improve their standard of living and the quality of their lives though effective relationships with employers and government.”1 The union provides a variety of legal and other services to its members.


Unite was established in 2007, as the result of of a merger between Amicus and the Transport and General Workers Union (also known as T&G and TGWU). T&G was involved in lobbying against the 2001 EU Tobacco Products Directive on behalf of the tobacco industry.2

Links to Tobacco Industry

Unite has members who are tobacco industry employees and the Union reported that it represents a substantial percentage of the sector: “Unite represents a large proportion of the 6,000 workers employed in the UK’s tobacco industry in JTI (Japan Tobacco International), Imperial Tobacco and BAT (British American Tobacco).”3 Although it is not known how many of their members work in the tobacco sector, a statement previously released by the union suggested that it represents “thousands of members employed by or reliant on the tobacco industry.”4

Against Plain Packaging

Since the UK Government first disclosed it was considering plain packaging legislation in 2011, Unite has been outspoken against it.
In March 2011, on the day the government announced its intention to consider plain packaging, it released a statement condemning the measure. Unite compared plain packaging of tobacco products to a “Counterfeiters’ Charter” and stressed that it would lead to increased illicit trade of cigarettes, loss of jobs, and decreased state revenue. When speaking of forgers and illegal traders, Jennie Formby, Unite national officer for tobacco workers, said:

“Switching to plain packaging will make it easier to sell their illicit and unregulated products especially to young people. That would undermine the regulated industry, may increase long-term health problems and put workers in the regulated industry out of work. Government revenues would suffer significantly and pressure on health spending increase.”

The Union also argued that there was no evidence to support the claim that plain packaging would have the desired effects of reducing youth smoking uptake and would instead result in unintended consequences.
These arguments are reflective of the classic industry arguments used to oppose plain packaging legislation in countries such as the UK and Australia. For evidence on the weakness of these arguments, see Countering Industry Arguments against Plain Packaging and Tobacco Control Research Group: Evidence on Plain Packaging.
A media source also reported that Unite members submitted an anti-plain packaging petition to Westminster during the first consultation on Plain Packaging in the UK in 2012.5
Philip Morris International (PMI) cited Unite in their submission to the first UK Consultation on Plain Packaging in 2012. When speaking of the threat to legitimate trade as a result of plain packaging, PMI quoted Unite to suggest that it would lead to an increase in illicit tobacco products.

Influencers diagram snipped from PMI UK Corporate Affairs Update March 2012, Leaked in 2013

Identified as an “Influencer” in PMI Leaked Docs

Leaked documents from PMI revealed the company’s plan for an extensive campaign against plain packaging in the UK 67 PMI mapped individuals and organisations that it believed could be ‘influencers’ in the plain packaging policy decision. Unite was identified as a key influencer and therefore critical to PMI’s anti-plain packaging campaign.
For more information, see PMI’s Anti-Plain Packaging Lobbying Campaign.

TobaccoTactics Resources

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  1. Unite, How we help, Unite website, accessed July 2014
  2. S Mandal et al, Block, amend, delay: tobacco industry efforts to influence the European Union’s Tobacco Products Directive (2201/37/EC), June 2009, accessed November 2014
  3. Unite, Food, Drink and Tobacco, Unite website, accessed July 2014
  4. Unite, Plain Packaging for cigarettes is “Counterfeiters’ Charter, 9 March 2011, accessed July 2014
  5. Ballymena Times, Local Unite Members Take Plain Packaging Petition to Westminster, 16 August 2012, accessed July 2014
  6. Philip Morris International, UK Corporate Affairs Update February 2012, Leaked in 2013
  7. Philip Morris International, UK Corporate Affairs Update March 2012, Leaked in 2013