Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Plain packaging moves across the world

In Australia the case opens in court as the tobacco companies defend their intellectual property against the plain packaging laws. The Australian government is confident of victory, arguing that it will not gain directly by confiscating tobacco brand markings.
The Commonwealth argues that even if big tobacco could prove the government was acquiring their property rights the manufacturers still wouldn't win in court.   
That's because the purpose of the plain packaging legislation - namely to improve public health - is within the scope of the Commonwealth's legislative power under the constitution's commerce, trade and external affairs powers.
This sounds like a blank cheque book: claim health grounds and you have a legal basis for any action. Even if the result were certain to be as the government claim, would this over-ride the legitimate requirements of traders to be able to legally brand their goods?

The legal arguments are beyond me but this link shows that opposition to the plain packaging proposals is shared with many bodies such as the US Chamber of Commerce. The Express has also opposed the policy. This link from Brand Republic gives a number of views including one from its own industry – not heard enough:
"Just focusing on the connection between branding and smoking behaviour may be a distorted way of looking at the way of branding. 
"Branding on pack is about differentiating product and competition on the basis of quality, reputation and price but if all the packs look the same you move very quickly towards a generic commoditised market place and that is typified by price competition. 
"It means there is a loss of incentive for companies to invest in quality and reputations because they have no way to communicate that to consumers. While I’m sure the familiar brands will continue, if you were to launch a new product into the market it can only be a price fighting product and if that is a means of reducing prices to consumers then actually it may result in more people smoking rather than less because it becomes a very price sensitive market.
Here the government consultation on plain packaging has opened: coordinated by the Department of Health to cover all the legislative assemblies as well as England. (It's worth responding: the EC had to publish responses to its Consultation on revising the Tobacco Products 2001 Directive. The public didn't like its proposals and this showed up in the consultation responses. It also showed that the tobacco company was not alone in opposing an extension to tobacco control. The more embarrassment they get the better.)

Simon Clark says in his blog that Andrew Lansley promised an independent review* of the evidence on plain packaging. I haven't read this review yet, but since it is co-authored by a team including Gerard Hastings, Linda Bauld and Crawfood Moodie (refer to front page of the report for their affiliations), it cannot be described as independent. As Simon says, 'there is not a single marketing, communications or branding expert on the panel'. Perhaps they would have been considered vested interests?

*yes he really did! Jesus, they surpass themselves. 'The Department of Health has ... commissioned an independent academic review of the existing evidence on the effects of plain packaging'. Said independent review is authored by a team of ten people, affiliated with the University of Nottingham, the Cancer Research UK Centre for Tobacco Control Research at the Institute of Social Marketing at Stirling University, and the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies. I've said this before: Cancer Research includes in its funding conditions for tobacco-related research the provision that research 'support current UK policy priorities', including plain packaging. How the {censored} does he get off with calling this an independent academic review?

h/tip Simon Clark for the link


Anonymous said...

Oddly enough there are 3 (Hinds K, O'Mara-Eves AJ, Thomas J)on the 'independent panel' who worked on an EPPI study "Young people’s access to tobacco: a mixed-method
systematic review." and nowhere was plain packaging to be found. - Did they think it unimportant (but will do now)?
There were many interesting findings and suggestions and then......... much later "There are however, some notable limitations to the review. These weaknesses are
predominantly due to limitations in the evidence base rather than the methods employed in the review."

The study can be found at http://eppi.ioe.ac.uk/cms/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=1PIIjjvuy3Y%3d&tabid=3301

Belinda said...

Anon: couldn't get that link to work

Lysistrata said...

By 'independent' Lansley simply meant legally independent of the Westminster government.

By 'academic' he simply meant people who are employed as academics.

He didn't mean independent in any normal sense of the word.

Nor academic in any true sense of that word: truly enquiring, knowledgable, intelligent, honest, research-based.

I share your view that the review is complete {censored} and should be exposed as such.

Anonymous said...

Belinda and all- the link should work if you copy and paste both lines of the address into the address bar - It is a PDF file so may take some time on slowish connections.

Anonymous said...

Isn't all this publicity about plain packaging a smokescreen to disguise the catastrophic smoking ban.
Smokers really don't care about the packets. They just want to be accepted back into society like human beings.
While everyone is banging on about the packaging and display bans etc. The ban in pubs is quietly being forgotten.

Junican said...

I personally do not give a toss about the colours of and logos on packets. What bothers me is the real intentions of tobacco control. Hardly anyone apart from me seems to know about the real intention and/or cares.

The real intentions are for tobacco control to gain control of the size and shape of packets. Over time, they could the legislate for smaller packets and thus the size of cigarettes. Of course, the tax would not go down. Also, there is the point that it would be possible to legislate against the import (even from the EU) of packets which do not conform to UK edicts.

Those are the real desires of tobacco control, but hardly anyone knows about them because TC is controlling the debate. TC is directing the debate in the direction of protecting children, but that idea is a smokescreen. Look at what the plan regarding 'plain' packaging really is. Look at the 'small print'.

Belinda said...

If it comes to it the real intentions are for the abolition of tobacco by 2025. As New Zealand has just told Yahoo news http://nz.news.yahoo.com/a/-/world/13472173/australian-court-defers-ruling-on-tobacco-packaging/?