Unbranded cigarette packaging - the answer?
In Australia, apparently “15,000 people die of smoking-related diseases every year”. In response, the Australian government is implementing a new law, to come into force in July 2012, which will mean that “all tobacco products will have to be sold in packaging of standard colour and style, and carry government health warnings”. This is a bold move and follows an excise duty increase of +25% (which comes in to force today), both of which have sent the local cigarette manufacturers into a panic.
British American Tobacco Australia’s managing director David Crow warned that “the measure would encourage trade in counterfeit and contraband cigarettes in Australia, which he described as “a significant problem” “. He also said that “Today’s double announcement….will be welcomed by the illegal market” and “As everyone knows the criminal black market doesn’t pay taxes and doesn’t ask kids for ID.”
But will a lack of branding really kill the market? Or is this just ’scaremongering’? Existing cigarette packaging is already plastered with all sorts of health warnings and sold from ‘behind a counter’. If people want to ‘be seen’ with a certain brand, tobacco companies could always sell (separately) empty branded ‘carry’ packs, into which people could transfer their legally bought plainly-packaged designer cigarettes, couldn’t they? Not that I could possibly condone this action! Or they could buy & use the silver-plated cigarette cases of ‘days gone by’ in which to carry their cigarettes around.
In today’s UK Guardian, Tim Wilson, director of intellectual property and free trade at Australia’s Institute of Public Affairs, also says that “tobacco companies were likely to demand compensation over the forced packaging changes, which could cost taxpayers around A$3bn a year”. Now this is something that could possibly scupper this law ‘dead in the water’, but I guess only time will tell, dependent on how successful any court actions were.
Wilson also points out that if successful in Australia, the same legislation is likely to be adopted worldwide. So if this were to happen, surely all packs, whether available on the ‘free market’ or ‘black market’ would be identical wouldn’t they? – Presuming, of course, that they had all been manufactured legally by tobacco companies, and not as ‘counterfeits’ by ‘pirates’. So this would suggest that Crow’s argument is flawed.
What do you think?
You can read the full article by following the link to our friends at Packaging News