Many readers of the article took this as a piece exposing how powerful capital interests (they fund the Tea Party, for goodness' sake!) influence UK policy. My take on it was that this was a piece trying to evoke the sense that if ALEC disagrees with it, then it must be an ideologically sound policy, on the grounds that my enemy's enemy is my friend.
I have not investigated ALEC. The detail of their purposes doesn't concern me, and is not relevant in any case to the advisability of the plain packaging policy. What is relevant is that they are US-based but wish to campaign beyond the US:
The organisation's attempts to influence the debate outside its native US has angered health campaigners. "Alec's free-market rhetoric may work in the US but it won't wash here in the UK," said Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health (Ash). "The tobacco industry and its lobbyists have money to burn, and they might as well just set fire to it as their campaign against plain packs is going nowhere. Their legal case is weak and the evidence in support of plain packaging is strong."Money to burn? I wonder what keeps her movement afloat when the nation's hospitals are physically falling apart? And what makes Arnott think that this is not an international issue? Why should anyone limit their campaigns to a single country when the World Health Organisation advocates this policy globally and the companies affected also operate internationally?
Brand packaging exists to protect the commercial operator from threats in the marketplace, like cheap imitations; and also to protect the consumer from the effects of such copying. Removing it, especially for a product that is already strong in the black market, popular especially among the economically deprived and considered to be hazardous, is surely asking for trouble. I don't see why you have to be a 'right-wing libertarian nut-case' to find this idea sensible.
The Observer's piece, linking this organisation in a quotation from Greenpeace to 'climate change denialists', is a blatant attempt to cast its view of the current issue as wrong, because all the other idiot causes it espouses are wrong (also chucking in words like 'billionaire', 'baron', 'oil'). It's hardly a subtle approach that investigates the controversy properly. The less affluent opponents of the policy don't get a mention (people like newsagents).
Observer goes to the bottom of the class, for reporting very unobservantly.