Australia moves towards plain packaging for cigarettes

An example of the proposed new packaging

Tobacco companies are up in arms about proposed legislation that would require all cigarette packets sold in Australia to be stripped of their branding and be sold in plain packaging.

(The Tobacco companies) said plain packaging would destroy their trademarks and is a violation of numerous international trade laws.BATA – whose brands include Winfield, Dunhill and Benson & Hedges – said the government’s proposal would infringe international trademark and intellectual property laws.

‘‘The government could end up wasting millions of taxpayers’ dollars in legal fees trying to defend their decision, let alone the potential to pay billions to the tobacco industry for taking away our intellectual property,’’ spokesman Scott McIntyre said in a statement.

Even most smokers hate the tobacco companies. They’re about as popular as lung cancer, and few people–including myself– care if their brands are diluted as a result of plain packaging laws. The question is, will plain packaging convince smokers to quit? The answer is: no. Changing the packaging won’t make people quit; tobacco is an addictive drug. People smoke because they enjoy the sensation, plain and simple. And the hardest thing to quit when it comes to smoking certainly isn’t the elegant Winnie blues packaging.

From 2006- 2009 the Canadian government instituted a total ban on smoking inside their prisons. Tobacco vendors inside prisons were forced to switch their packaging from the standard cellophane wrapped box to wads of tobacco inserted into the anuses of prison visitors. Despite these changes, demand for tobacco remained strong as ever. Australian legislators take note: If smokers are prepared to smoke something that has been inside a friend or family member, plain brown packaging isn’t going to upset them in the slightest.

Of course, not everyone is upset about these proposed changes: sellers of black market tobacco should be pleased when the smoking public realises that tobacco is mostly the same no matter who manufactures it. Given the excessive “sin tax” on cigarettes, it would make sense for many smokers to shift to illegal tobacco to save money. The government may very well see a reduction in the purchase of legal tobacco (and an accompanying drop in tax revenue) but no reduction in smoking rates whatsoever.

The government understandably hates tobacco, it’s a harmful drug that kills people and places a massive burden on the public health system. They have good intentions, but once again their attempts to solve a problem are horribly misguided.

Read more here: New-look cigarette packaging draws fire from big tobacco – but will it work?

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Categories: Business, Health, Medicine, Politics, Law

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2 Comments on “Australia moves towards plain packaging for cigarettes”

  1. Richard Lee
    April 11, 2011 at 10:34 am #

    If the govt is fair dinkum about the damage that cigarettes and gambling do, simple, ban them.
    Just like they are trying to put pre-commitment onto poker machines, and the clubs association has a $20M war chest to fight the gambling provisions.

    The reason they don’t? The govt and the lobbyists are addicted to the money.
    Yes a black market will arise but that’s part of the deal.

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