Thursday, 23 August 2012

Smoke 'em

British American Tobacco have launched their campaign against plain packaging.

It's quite retro, especially the print media stuff.  There's also some video (for TV maybe - I've had a TV free week), audio and a website.  I heard yesterday that they were planning on taking out full page advertisements and it reminded me of the 1990s.  Who does that kind of thing these days - it seems like yesterday's response from yesterday's industry.

The argument runs that requiring tobacco to be sold in plain packaging equates to the confiscation of intellectual property rights.  Greater minds than mind have already blogged about this, Scott for example.

And the Herald have been remarkably consistent in their support for the right to display branding.  First it was gang patches, now it is tobacco.  The government was pretty keen to ban gang patches.

Robert Winter blogged on an interview on the radio this morning, on the subject of the regulation of alcohol.  I heard most of the interview too, and it was remarkable the effort that the sellers of alcohol go to protect their profits.  The interview included Prof. Jenny Connor from Otago University, who noted that the way to reduce the harm caused by alcohol is to reduce the amount sold.

I've no doubt the same applies to tobacco.  If plain packaging was not going to affect the sales and profitability of tobacco, British American Tobacco would not be taking out full page advertisements, or having advertisements produced and broadcast, or publishing websites.

I don't mind the website itself.  The "Our View" bit is all scare tactics until the seventh point, where the motivation is laid bare.

All that remains for me is to identify whether there is a good reason to prevent tobacco companies displaying branding on the exterior of the packaging of their product - which is not quite the same as "confiscating intellectual property".  I'd say that the unique combination of:

  • being legal,
  • being addictive, and
  • being injurious and often fatal to all users even with moderate use

is enough to justify plain packaging.  There are plenty of other things that are one or two, but if there is anything else that is all three I'm too tired to think of what it is.

The simple solution is to just make it illegal, but often simple solutions do not work.  Banning tobacco would not prevent its consumption, and it would be unfair to addicts.  Though if banning it in prisons worked.....
But no, I don't mind people smoking.  I do mind people making money from selling addictive and destructive products.  That leaves me at leaving tobacco legal, as long as it is home-grown for personal use.

Fun Lovin Criminals - Come Find Yourself, 1996

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