For many years, there has been a huge conflict between governments and tobacco manufacturers. Comprehensive laws have been implemented in different countries, banning smoking in homes and public areas, disallowing tobacco advertisements, requiring product manufacturers to show hazardous labels and warnings on their packaging, and so on. Just recently, amidst the complaints of tobacco sellers, the Australian government has upheld the law on cigarette plain packaging. This includes removing brand colours and logos.
The newly passed law requires tobacco manufacturers to make use of olive green packets, with warning images instead of their logos. Said policy is to be implemented on 01 December 2012.
As expected, major tobacco manufacturers aren’t happy about the upholding of the plain cigarette packaging law. The biggest players such as British American Tobacco and Philip Morris filed a motion to retract the said law.
What tobacco manufacturers say
The new packaging law was created to discourage the public, most especially the youth from buying cigarettes. But this, according to tobacco manufacturers, has no basis. They argue that it has not been proven whether the said change in tobacco packets with augment the campaign against smoking. They also warned that such law will lead to drastic cuts in their profits, and at the same time open up the doors for fake tobacco manufacturers to join the market.
Cigarette manufacturers also argued that the law was unconstitutional as it violates their intellectual property rights because it prohibits them from placing their brands or trademarks.
Despite all these, some manufacturers such as British American Tobacco (BAT) will strictly follow the rules. “Even though we believe the government has taken our property from us, we’ll ensure our products comply with the plain packaging requirements and implementation dates." said Scott McIntyre, the BAT spokesperson in Australia.
What the government and health groups say
The main issue posed by cigarette manufacturers lies on whether or not implementing plain packaging rules will indeed discourage people from smoking. In a study by the Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, The Cancer Council Victoria, it shows that it does. On their experimental study, it was found that adolescent’s perception on cigarette is affected by its packaging. Participants found cigarettes wrapped in plain cardboard bearing the brand name and number of cigarettes to be less attractive. Said study demonstrated that plain packaging is associated with negative perceptions about tobacco.
When it comes to the onset of fake tobacco products, The Cancer Research UK, an established international charity, said that even with the existing packs, counterfeiting takes place. The existing markings that will help authorities tell which one is fake or not will still be retained, making the plain packing harder to forge.
As to the constitutionality of the law, the government is very confident that the new policy will prevail. They explained that the intellectual and trademark rights of the manufacturers haven’t been taken away from them, rather restricted.
Australia is the first country to adopt this kind of policy. But other countries such as the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and some states in the US are already considering doing the same thing. If that happens, more countries will bid on the same policy, and the threat continues for cigarette makers.
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