Plain packaging of tobacco products
By stigmatising tobacco products, governments are ostracizing the smokers from normal society. The law should not impose excessive regulations on consumers.
EU anti-smoking campaigners sometimes propose ‘plain packaging’ – where tobacco companies are banned from using their brands or logos on the packs of cigarettes and other tobacco products they sell – as a measure to discourage smoking.
Plain packaging represents a de-normalization of tobacco products. By stigmatising the product, governments are also ostracizing the user from normal society.
Plain packs are unlikely to deter people from smoking. There’s no clear evidence that plain packaging worked in Australia.
The impact on consumer choice could be significant because some brands will almost certainly disappear from the market.
It is economically illiterate because a properly functioning consumer goods market relies on having clearly differentiated brands with different price positioning.
It’s also an example of the ‘slippery slope’ approach to policy making. If you don’t smoke but enjoy alcohol, sugary drinks and convenience food you should be concerned by plain packaging because this kind of regulations are coming for your choices, too.
‘Plain packaging’ of tobacco is a classic case of bad policy making in response to the ‘something must be done’ tendency in politics. It doesn’t work in its main aim, it’s not about health but about control, it risks harmful side effects and erodes the principles that underpin the success of free societies.
Guillaume Périgois, Director of Forest EU has made these points clearly, saying:
Tobacco being a legal product, the law should not impose excessive regulations on consumers who know the health risks and don’t need this type of bossiness.
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