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Plain Packaging

Plain cigarette packaging laws come into effect today in Ireland

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Nearly Three Quarters of UK Smokers Avoid Paying Tobacco Duties

Major new survey reveals true impact of high Government taxes and new regulations

Government warned of risks of a second duty increase in under one year

The trade association for the UK tobacco industry is today publishing the results of the largest annual survey of 12,000 UK smokers that reveals the impact of the Government’s high tobacco taxes and shows the problem being made worse by new draconian regulations introduced this year including plain packaging.

Key findings:

– 72.5% or around 7 million smokers buy tobacco from sources where UK taxes won’t be paid including illicit tobacco and from abroad.

– 41% of smokers bought tobacco from illicit tobacco sources.

– Smokers on higher incomes (over £60,000) were as likely to buy illicit as those on low incomes (under £6,000).

– 48% of smokers who earned less than £6,000 bought tobacco from illicit sources.

– 40% of smokers who earned more than £60,000 bought tobacco from illicit sources.

– Smokers are stockpiling cheap or illicit tobacco with 53% of cigarette smokers buying 200 or more when they buy from sources that won’t have paid UK tax.

– 88% of smokers thought that tobacco prices are too high – just 2% thought that prices were too low.

– 57% of smokers said that rising prices tempt them to purchase tobacco that won’t have paid UK tax.

– Taxes on tobacco have increased by 65% since 2010 and by 5.9% at the 2017 spring Budget.

– 45% of smokers said that the ban on small tobacco packs and the introduction of mandatory plain packaging tempted them to purchase illegal tobacco. 31% said it did not tempt them.

– Analysis by Oxford Economics says that banning small tobacco packs will cost HM Treasury £2.1 billion in its first year.

– HM Treasury lost out on £3 billion from tobacco purchases which didn’t pay UK taxes in 2015-16.

– Only 12% of smokers who knew of illicit tobacco in their local area reported it to the authorities.

– This is a 40% fall compared to the 20% who reported it in 2016.

Tobacco on which UK taxes is not paid is a major issue for law enforcement and taxpayers. £3 billion of tax were lost to the illicit trade and cross border shopping in 2015-16, an amount that cannot be spent on important public services. The link between high tobacco taxes and the illicit market is acknowledged by many leading independent institutions including the Royal United Services Institute.

This survey of over 12,000 smokers supports these conclusions with the vast majority saying that tobacco prices are too high; government taxes account for up to 90% of the price of a pack of cigarettes.

The regulatory changes to the UK tobacco market this year – the ban on small packs and the introduction of plain packaging – might make the problem worse, with 45% of smokers saying they are more likely to purchase illicit tobacco because of the changes. Moreover, smokers are increasingly buying larger amounts of untaxed tobacco with 53% saying they buy 200 cigarettes or more from non-taxed sources.

In addition, government policies appear to have alienated smokers so they are not concerned when they know illegal tobacco is being sold in their local area. Just 12% of smokers who had seen illicit tobacco reported it (a 40% decrease on last year (20%) and 64% of those who did not say this is because it is ‘none of their business’ (a 7 percentage point increase on 2016). There is also growing evidence found by a recent Trading Standards report to suggest the children are increasingly accessing illicit tobacco given its widespread availability and affordability.

Overall this survey confirms that the Government’s policies do not have the support of smokers and are likely to be a large contributing factor to the high level of illegal tobacco in the UK.

Responding to this year’s findings, TMA Director General, Giles Roca, said:

“These results reveal the true extent of how the Government’s high tax policy, in creating some of the highest tobacco prices in Europe, has continued to push smokers to buy from non UK duty paid and illegal sources. High taxes have cost the Treasury billions of pounds in lost revenues whilst giving a boost to the criminals who are behind the illegal trade. There is also worrying evidence that children are increasingly accessing tobacco from these illicit sources.”

“The regulations that came fully into force this year banning small tobacco packs and introducing plain packaging are making the problem worse by pushing smokers towards the illicit market rather than encouraging them to quit.”

“There is a real risk that the problem could be made worse if the Government decides to increase tobacco duty for a second time in nine months in the upcoming Budget. These findings suggest the Government needs to completely re-think its tobacco taxation policy.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. The findings are drawn from a survey of 12,605 smokers from across the UK conducted in June 2017.

2. This is the fourth year that the TMA has polled smokers to find out their attitudes towards illicit tobacco.

3. £3 billion of tax from tobacco products was lost to the illicit trade (£2.4 billion) and cross border shopping £600 million) in 2015-16. HMRC, 2016, Measuring tax gaps, tobacco tax gap estimates 2015-16.

4. Oxford Economics estimated that the impact of the ban of packs of fewer than 20 cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco smaller than 30grams would be a reduction in tax revenue of £2.1 billion in its first year.

5. The Treasury raised tobacco duty at the budget in March 2017 by 2% above inflation. The autumn budget will take place on 22nd November 2017.

6. A survey undertaken by North West Trading Standards in 2015 found that 39% of children had purchased cigarettes with non-English health warnings.

7. The Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association (TMA) is the trade association for the UK’s tobacco industry. Our members are British American Tobacco UK Ltd, Gallaher Ltd (a member of the JTI Group of companies) and Imperial Tobacco Ltd.

8. Findings from previous year’s surveys can be found at http://www.the-tma.org.uk.

SOURCE The Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association (TMA

Swedish snus company sues Norwegian state over neutral packaging

Snus producer Swedish Match is taking the Norwegian state to court as it seeks an injunction to delay neutral packaging.

https://www.thelocal.no/20170925/snus-company-sues-norwegian-state-over-packaging

A change in Norwegian law requiring all tobacco products to be given neutral packaging is set to be tested in court.

That includes snus, a moist powder tobacco product related to dry snuff that is popular in Norway and Sweden. The product is consumed by placing under the upper lip for extended periods.

The law, which came in to effect on July 1st this year, means that packaging of snus, as well as of cigarettes, must now be neutral.

All tobacco companies must introduce neutral packaging on their products by July 1st 2018, the final deadline for doing so after the new law was introduced.

But the Swedish company wants a temporary injunction to be taken out over snus products, reports news agency NTB.

Swedish Match will meet representatives from Norwegian authorities in court on Monday over the issue.

The company claims that the requirement set down by the Norwegian government is in breach of EEC free trade rules, and that the deadline for the new packaging must therefore be delayed until the EEC issue has been resolved by an as-yet undefined trial.

“Regulation that constitutes such a strong intervention as standardised packaging is not in proportion to the possible health risks associated with snus,” Swedish Match spokesperson Patrik Hildingsson told newspaper VG earlier this year.

Norways’s minister for health Bent Høie told the newspaper that he was not surprised by lawsuits from tobacco companies in the wake of the regulation introduced on July 1st.

“They did it in Australia, France and the United Kingdom, and lost everywhere,” Høie told VG.

The general secretary of the Norwegian Cancer Society (Kreftforeningen) said that she was, like Høie, unsurprised at the decision of tobacco companies to pursue legal options.

“This is a well-known tactic used to challenge a political initiative to ensure fewer young people start using snus,” Anne Lise Ryel said in a press statement.

The number of young people smoking has reduced significantly over the last ten years, while the used of snus has increased, according to NTB’s report.

One third of young men and just under a quarter of young women currently used the product, according to the report, while over 10,000 young people start using it each year.

Honduras takes on Australia over tobacco plain packaging

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Commission: Plain tobacco packaging does not damage the economy

A European Commission spokesperson has told EURACTIV.com that any loss in the tobacco industry’s turnover arising from health warnings or plain packaging should be offset against the cost of treating people with smoking-related diseases.

https://www.euractiv.com/section/health-consumers/news/commission-plain-tobacco-packaging-does-not-damage-the-economy/

The revised EU Tobacco Products Directive came into force in May 2016 and introduced stricter measures on packaging. For example, 65% of a packet’s surface should include health warning pictures and text.

Member states are also free to take additional measures, such as enforcing the use of plain packaging. France, Hungary, Ireland, Slovenia and the UK are among the countries that have already adopted this measure.

For the World Health Organisation and public health NGOs, plain packaging is an ideal tool to reduce the appeal of smoking. On the other hand, the tobacco industry claims it amounts to a “brand ban”.

Ben Townsend, vice-president for Europe at Japan Tobacco International (JTI), recently told EURACTIV that the ban simply doesn’t work.

“In Australia, the first country to introduce plain packaging more than four years ago, government data showed that the decline in smoking has actually stalled,” he said.

Threats against Dublin

When the British government introduced plain packaging, the tobacco industry attempted to block it by invoking intellectual property rights. But it lost the court case.

In Ireland, press reports referred to industry “threats” about the country’s economy.

Dublin decided that all tobacco products manufactured for sale in Ireland from 30 September 2017 must be marketed in standardised retail packaging.

Ireland’s Ministry of Health told EURACTIV in a written statement that a wash-through period would be allowed, meaning any products manufactured and placed on the market before the September cutoff date will be permitted to stay on the market for a 12-month period (i.e. until 30th September 2018).

According to the ministry, the aim of standardised packaging is to make all tobacco packets look “less attractive to consumers, to make health warnings more prominent and to prevent packaging from misleading consumers about the harmful effects of tobacco”.

But the Irish Independent reported earlier this month that the three tobacco giants (British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco Group and JT International) had threatened to undermine the Irish and EU economy in response to the measure.

The three companies sent a letter to former European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro Olli Rehn warning him about the catastrophic implications of plain packaging.

In the letter, according to the Irish newspaper, the tobacco firms indicated they would seek compensation for damages which could “undermine savings […] and negatively impact the Irish economy”.

European Commission: There is no loss

Contacted by EURACTIV, the European Commission confirmed that the directive allows states to introduce further measures relating to plain packaging where they are justified on public health grounds, are proportionate and do not lead to hidden barriers to trade between member states.

But the executive does not support the argument that plain packaging comes at a financial “cost” to the European economy.

“Any loss in the industry’s revenues or a country’s tax revenues from tobacco products arising from e.g. health warnings or plain packaging should be counterbalanced against the cost to the economy of treating people with smoking-related diseases,” a Commission spokesperson said.

The EU official pointed out that healthcare to treat people with smoking-related diseases costs €25.3 billion every year in the EU and an additional €8.3bn is lost to absenteeism/premature retirement.

“This is a total cost of €33.6bn a year,” the spokesperson emphasised, adding that a 2% reduction in smoking alone would translate into annual healthcare savings of approximately €506 million for the EU.

Philip Morris to pay millions to Australia on failed plain packaging case

Big tobacco battle: Final costs figure kept secret but reported as being up to €33.36m

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/asia-pacific/philip-morris-to-pay-millions-to-australia-on-failed-plain-packaging-case-1.3149956

Tobacco manufacturer Philip Morris will be forced to pay millions of dollars in legal fees to Australia after its failed case against plain packaging laws.

Big tobacco companies have fought vigorously against the Australian government’s plain packaging laws since they were introduced in 2011.

By banning logos and distinctive-coloured cigarette packaging, Australia’s laws went further than the advertising bans and graphic health warnings introduced in many other countries.

Philip Morris, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco quickly attempted to have the laws overturned through a constitutional challenge in the high court, which they lost in 2012.

Philip Morris Asia then took a case to the permanent court of arbitration in 2012. It tried to use the conditions of a 1993 trade agreement between Australia and Hong Kong to argue a ban on trademarks breached foreign investment provisions.

Corporate giant

The corporate giant not only lost but was criticised by the court, which found the case to be “an abuse of rights”.

The court published a decision on the payment of costs at the weekend, which it made in March. The decision, which brought five years of proceedings to a close, found Philip Morris Asia liable to pay Australia’s multimillion-dollar claim for legal costs.

The final costs figure was kept secret but Fairfax Media reported it as being up to AUS $50 million (€33.36 million).

Australia successfully argued Philip Morris must pay its court fees and expenses, the cost of expert witnesses, travel, and solicitors and counsel. It also claimed interest.

Australia had told the court its claim was modest and was a small proportion of what the tobacco giant had sought in damages.

Critical importance

It said Philip Morris had sought to challenge a public health measure of critical importance to Australia, making it important to “mount a robust and comprehensive response to all aspects of the claim”.

Philip Morris had tried to argue the government’s costs were unreasonable for a “legal team that consisted primarily of public servants”.

The company argued that two similar countries, Canada and the US, had never claimed more than US$4.5m and US$3m respectively in costs and fees. Australia’s claim was much more than that.

“The claimant emphasises that, even excluding the fees of four outside counsel, the respondent’s government lawyers claim over [REDACTED]in fees, even though Australia itself pays them ‘very modest government salaries’,” the court’s decision read.

But the court found Australia’s claim was reasonable, rejecting Philip Morris’s arguments.

“Taking into account the complexity of issues of domestic and international law relevant in this procedure, particularly for a government team usually not engaged in such disputes, the Tribunal does not consider that any of these costs claimed by the Respondent were unreasonable and should not have been incurred,” it found.

“In making this assessment, the Tribunal also takes into consideration the significant stakes involved in this dispute in respect of Australia’s economic, legal and political framework, and in particular the relevance of the outcome in respect of Australia’s policies in matters of public health.”

Earlier this year big tobacco failed in a separate bid to have the laws overturned by the World Trade Organisation. The decision was widely seen as a green light for more countries to follow Australia’s lead.

How to measure the black market for cigarettes

Popular methods include surveys, statistical analysis and rooting through rubbish

http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2017/06/economist-explains-4

LAST month Britain joined a growing number of countries in which cigarettes can only be sold in plain packs. Tobacco companies claim that the move will boost the sales of contraband cigarettes by making them trickier to spot. There is one way to tell whether this actually happens: track how black-market sales change. But how can such sales be measured?

There are about a dozen ways to do it, of which three are the most commonly used, says Hana Ross of the University of Cape Town. The first is a comparison of the number of cigarettes sold legally (from records on cigarette taxes paid) with the number of cigarettes consumed (which is calculated from surveys asking people how much they smoke). The gap between the two figures is the estimated share of the black market. The second commonly used method is to ask smokers where they have bought cigarettes and how much they have paid; smokers might also be asked to show the most recent pack they have bought. A price lower than that of legally sold brands suggests a contraband sale; some smokers openly admit that they have bought contraband cigarettes, or show a telltale pack.

The third method is to look at discarded cigarette packs and count up each that looks like a black-market purchase, for instance by missing its tax sticker or displaying a brand that is not officially registered. Discarded packs can be collected from vendors who sell cigarettes by the stick, from litter in the streets, or by rummaging through rubbish bins or the hauls of refuse-collection trucks. (“We dress them as if they are going into space”, says Ms Ross about the recruits who rummage through the heaps.)

Each of these methods has its weakness. Smokers may, for example, be reluctant to mention purchases of cigarettes they know to be contraband. They may also claim to smoke less than they actually do (especially if researchers come round soon after a major anti-smoking campaign). Ideally, multiple methods should be applied to get a better estimate of the total black-market sales. And trends over time are best measured by applying the same method. Such studies are conducted in a growing number of countries. Just because a sale occurs in the shadows does not mean it is impossible to cast a smouldering light on it.

Cheaper cigarettes, roll-your-own tobacco slows smoking’s downward spiral

Yesterday morning, Australia’s tobacco industry woke to the latest chapter in the book documenting its inexorable decline.

https://theconversation.com/cheaper-cigarettes-roll-your-own-tobacco-slows-smokings-downward-spiral-78745

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare released data from its 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey, which it has conducted every three years since 1985.

While it was always going to be hard to show even further decline in teenage smoking from what was an already very low level, it’s happened again.

The proportion of teenagers (aged 12-17) who have never smoked more than 100 cigarettes significantly increased between 2013 and 2016, from 95% to 98%. Smoking more than 100 cigarettes in a lifetime has long been used in Australia as a benchmark question to sort curious, experimental smokers from more committed and addicted smokers.

Younger people also continued to delay when they first smoked their first full cigarette. This increased in the 14 to 24-year-olds from 14.2 years in 1995 to 16.3 in 2016 (a statistically significant increase from 15.9 years in 2013).

Catch ‘em young

The tobacco industry knows it needs to attract and addict new consumers to replace those who stop smoking through quitting and death. As a 1981 report sent to the then vice-president of research and development at Philip Morris put it:

Younger adult smokers are the only source of replacement smokers … If younger adults turn away from smoking, the industry must decline, just as a population which does not give birth will eventually dwindle.

Australia’s plain packaging legislation, implemented in December 2012, was aimed at reducing teenage Australians taking up smoking. As the health minister who introduced it, Nicola Roxon emphasised in April 2010 when announcing the policy:

We’re targeting people who have not yet started, and that’s the key to this plain packaging announcement – to make sure we make it less attractive for people to experiment with tobacco in the first place.

As Australian young people have turned away from smoking, the tobacco industry is left scrambling for new ways to addict young customers to nicotine.

Total smoking levels remain level

The proportion of people of all ages who smoke was also not good news for the tobacco industry.

The percentage of people aged 14 and over who smoke daily is down from 12.8% in 2013 to 12.2% in 2016. While any decline is welcome, this was less than it should have been, and the first time in two decades that a statistically significant fall was not recorded.

There are several factors likely to be responsible for the previously brake-less downward slide in smoking.

Long-time campaigners Mike Daube and Todd Harper have set out nine strategies the Australian tobacco industry has used so it can keep earning from the deaths of two in three Australian smokers likely to die from using their products.

Two critical factors here are price discounting and the dramatic rise of roll-your-own tobacco.

How price discounting works

Plain packaging means brand differentiation is gone as all packs look the same, except for the written brand name. So, the ability of branding to convince gullible smokers that premium (expensive) brands are somehow “better” and worth spending more on than cheaper, budget brands goes out the window.

After plain packaging was introduced, there was an industry-wide decision to cut prices to compete with lower priced brands for market share. There were large tobacco tax rises in the run-up to plain packs being introduced (25% in 2010) and a further 12.5% each year from 2013 to 2016.

Again, the tobacco companies cut their margins by desperately trying to keep some brands below A$20 a pack, a price known to trigger quitting.

These practices may see renewed interest in floor pricing of tobacco products, when a price is set below which a product cannot be sold.

Rise in roll-your-own tobacco

Tobacco companies have also aggressively pushed cheaper roll-your-own tobacco by introducing loose tobacco with cigarette brand names. The tax in roll-your-own tobacco will rise from September 2017, which may see a further round of price discounting to try and stop people quitting.

The use of roll-your-own cigarettes has gone from 26% of smokers in 2007, to 33% in 2013 and to 36% in 2016. Lower price is one factor driving this, but so too are the quite erroneous beliefs that roll-your-own tobacco somehow contains fewer additives and is less harmful, an issue I will explore in my next column.

The increase in roll-your-own cigarettes since 2007 has been largest among smokers aged under 40 (increase of 82% for young adults and 70% for smokers in their 30s between 2007 and 2016). Between 2013 and 2016 roll-your-own use in smokers in their 30s jumped from 29% to 37%.

National campaign wheels fallen off

Sustained and adequately funded mass media campaigns are a vital component of strategies health authorities recommended to change health behaviours, like smoking.

And with smoking, one of the most obvious pieces of evidence comes from ex-smokers about why they stopped smoking. There are light-years between the answer that has always been given (concern about health) and everything else (cost, social unacceptability, pregnancy etc).

In this study of smokers in 20 US communities, 91.6% of ex-smokers nominated “concern for your own current or future health” as why they quit compared with 46.5% who nominated “pressure from family, friends or co-workers”.

Without large scale, on-going campaigns that reach large proportions of the population with unforgettable, motivating information about why smoking is so harmful, the core driver of quitting and not starting smoking may wane.

Regrettably, Australia’s world famous national tobacco campaign that started in 1997 and has been used by many other countries, has been mothballed since 2013 when the Coalition government took office.

Smokers still get sporadic small bursts of quit smoking ads on television in some states from state health departments. But they are not getting a fraction of the highly motivating exposures that were a big part of our earlier rapid declines. This absence is almost certainly a major factor explaining the slow down in people quitting smoking.

E-cigarettes

The latest stats show that while around 31% of smokers (ie 3.8% of the 14+ population) had ever tried e-cigarettes, 20% seemed to have done so out of curiosity (once or twice) with only 4.4% currently using them (the remaining 6.8% no longer use them). Just 1.5% of smokers were using e-cigarettes daily (0.8% of ex-smokers and 0.2% of never smokers).

There’s no evidence from these very small numbers that e-cigarette use is contributing to falling smoking in Australia.

Many are concerned that the tobacco industry (which has bought into vapourisers big time) has a business plan to have smokers vape and smoke, not vape instead of smoking. If that plays out, increases in vaping may in fact act to further slow people from quitting smoking. The next few years will provide important information on this important issue.

Hong Kong must adopt plain tobacco packaging, say health advocates

Three-quarters of Hongkongers support restrictions on logos, colours and brand images on cigarette and other tobacco product packs in a bid to further reduce smoking

http://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/health-beauty/article/1959203/hong-kong-must-adopt-plain-tobacco-packaging-say-health

We’ve all chosen products purely based on packaging – a bag of chips at the supermarket, a novel at the bookstore, a photo of a dish on a menu. Even when dealing with people, we tend to let first impressions guide our future interactions with them.

The power of packaging to directly influence one’s perception of something or someone is so strong that it’s no surprise the World Health Organisation advocates plain packaging for tobacco products, which kill almost six million people every year.

Momentum for plain packaging has steadily gained in the past few years, starting with Australia’s implemention in December 2012, and now the measure looks to be gaining traction worldwide.

“We’re beginning to see the globalisation of plain packaging,” says Benn McGrady, a legal adviser to the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

Plain packaging of tobacco products restricts or prohibits the use of logos, colours, brand images and promotional information on packaging other than brand and product names displayed in a standard colour and font style.

Earlier this month on May 20, France and Britain each began implementation of plain packaging. Ireland is also preparing to introduce the measure this year; Hungary and Norway are in the process of developing laws to implement plain packaging; Singapore is undertaking a public consultation with a view to introducing plain packaging; and several other countries, including New Zealand, South Africa and Turkey, have either expressed an intent to implement the measure or are in the policy development process.

Will Hong Kong be next? Antonio Kwong, chairman of the Council on Smoking and Health (Cosh), says Cosh has been advocating the government implement plain packaging since 2012.

About three-quarters of Hongkongers have expressed support for plain packaging, Kwong says, citing results from the 2015 Tobacco Control Policy-related Survey commissioned by Cosh and conducted by Hong Kong University’s School of Public Health to collect public opinion towards current and future tobacco control policies.

“In view of the global successful examples and WHO’s appeal, Cosh recommends the government to actively consider adopting plain packaging in two to three years,” says Kwong.

The WHO is stepping up its drive for plain packaging by making it the theme of this year’s World No Tobacco Day, held annually on May 31 since 1988. WHO has launched a new 86-page guide to plain packaging of tobacco products, which gives governments the latest evidence and guidance on implementing the measure.

“Plain packaging reduces the attractiveness of tobacco products. It kills the glamour, which is appropriate for a product that kills people,” says WHO director-general Dr Margaret Chan, a former Hong Kong director of health. “It restricts tobacco advertising and promotion. It limits misleading packaging and labelling. And it increases the effectiveness of health warnings.”

McGrady says there’s a “strong evidence base” supporting the implementation of plain packaging, including more than 80 peer-reviewed empirical studies, three systematic reviews of the evidence, and an official post-implementation review from Australia.

“As a whole, this body of evidence points in one direction, which says plain packaging is an effective public health intervention,” says McGrady.

Smoking prevalence has been steadily declining in Australia for years and, even if plain packaging hadn’t been introduced the rate, was projected to be 17.77 per cent among those aged 14 and older in 2015. However, research shows that between December 2012 and September 2015, there was an additional 0.55 percentage point fall in smoking prevalence attributable to the packaging changes – meaning a 17.21 per cent prevalence – McGrady says.

This equates to more than 108,000 fewer smokers in Australia as a consequence of plain packaging – a “very big” number, says McGrady. “Plain packaging has decreased tobacco use in Australia beyond trend; it has increased the speed of the downward trajectory.”

Tobacco packs act as a prominent form of tobacco advertising and promotion, not only at the point of sale, but also after, says the WHO report. Tobacco products are “badge products”, meaning they have a high degree of social visibility and that consumers identify with the brand image cultivated on product packaging.

“As internal tobacco industry documents recognise, packaging plays an increasingly important role in promoting tobacco products as other restrictions on tobacco advertising and promotion are tightened,” the report says.

In the evidence gathered in the report, studies show that packaging – in particular colour – affects consumers’ perceptions of risk. Early evidence of this can be found in internal tobacco industry documents released to the public through litigation, the report says.

For example, a 1990 tobacco industry document recognised that so-called “lower delivery products” were featured in lighter packs because they have a clean healthy connotation. Other studies tested consumer reactions to ultra-light products packaged in different colour packs. Consumers ranked the perceived tar level of products in different colour packs and commented on factors such as the harshness and strength of the flavour of different colour packs with otherwise identical products inside them.

There’s also evidence that plain packaging influences the intention and increases the urgency of smokers to quit. It also reduces active smoking and the display of tobacco packs in outdoor settings.

Plain packaging also prevents misleading packaging, the report says, such as labels like “light”and “mild”, which suggest products are less harmful to health than regular brand variants when this is not the case. Rather, consumers compensate for the lower tar and nicotine yields in these products, including by smoking more of a cigarette and taking deeper puffs.

With all this compelling evidence, why aren’t more governments rushing to implement plain packaging?

“I think the resistance to tobacco control and plain packaging are driven by the tobacco industry using its deep pockets to oppose implementation of good public health policies. It’s political; it’s nothing to do with evidence or public policy,” says McGrady. “That’s what’s slowing down tobacco control globally.”

Tobacco industry opposition to plain packaging dates back more than 20 years, McGrady says. Most recently the world’s top four tobacco companies challenged Britain’s new plain packaging law, arguing that it unlawfully took away their intellectual property. The High Court struck down the challenge and the law came into effect on May 20.

“It is wrong to view this issue purely in monetised terms,” the ruling said. “There is a significant moral angle embedded in the regulations, which is about saving children from a lifetime of addiction, and children and adults from premature death and related suffering and disease.”

One person dies from a tobacco-caused disease approximately every six seconds according to the WHO. Annual deaths are forecast to rise from 6 million to more than 8 million by 2030.

In Hong Kong, the prevalence of daily cigarette smokers among persons aged 15 and over has decreased steadily from 23.3 per cent in 1982 to 10.5 per cent in 2015 (except for years from 2000 to 2002). Still, a Chinese University study last year found that smoking costs the city HK$11.3 billion each year, in health care expenses and productivity losses related to tobacco.

The WHO recommends implementing plain packaging as part of a comprehensive approach to tobacco control that includes large graphic health warnings and comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

Says Kwong: “Through the implementation of a comprehensive and multipronged strategy, including a policy of long-term tobacco tax increases to reduce affordability, expansion of statutory no-smoking areas, restriction of tobacco promotion and packaging, the banning of tobacco product displays at points of sale, raising the minimum age to buy cigarettes to 21, increasing resources for smoking cessation services, strengthening smoke-free education and promotion, placing responsibility on venue managers for smoking offences in their premises etc, we hope the smoking prevalence will drop to below 5 per cent in the near future.”

Big Tobacco is losing the fight to stop plain packaging of cigarettes

Dr Enrico Bonadio, a Senior Lecturer in the City Law School, says the tobacco industry’s bid to avoid plain packaging by relying on legal arguments around trade and intellectual property rights, is being systematically dismissed by courts around the world.

https://www.city.ac.uk/news/2017/may/big-tobacco-is-losing-the-fight-to-stop-plain-packaging-of-cigarettes

You may already have seen the tobacco packs currently sold in the UK: a dark, murky green colour with large graphic health-warning images and scary messages aimed at informing current and potential smokers about the devastating consequences of tobacco consumption. They have no colourful logos, with the brand name just displayed in small characters in a standard font.

These packs are now required by new regulations which entered into force in May 2016. There has been a one-year transitional period for the sell-through of old stock – and from May 20 2017 all tobacco products on sale in the UK must comply with the new rules.

The legislative move has been recommended to all countries by the World Health Organisation to reduce the attractiveness of smoking and eventually reduce consumption. Australia was the first country to introduce such strict packaging requirements in December 2012. France and, of course, the UK have since followed suit.

It follows significant research that shows these new standardised cigarette packs are much less appealing to consumers – and young people especially.
The industry’s legal defeats

No wonder tobacco companies have challenged the measure in the courts. They have argued that it is useless, too harsh – and is an infringement of their fundamental and intellectual property rights, especially trademarks. Yet, their claims are based on weak arguments and have been rejected by both the High Court of England and Wales and the Court of Appeal.

The tobacco industry has faced numerous courtroom defeats of late. Last year Uruguay won a landmark case against the Swiss giant Philip Morris International. The company had sued the Latin American state after it introduced two measures affecting tobacco packaging and trademarks. These were mandatory graphic health warnings covering 80% of cigarette packets (a measure very close to plain packaging) and the obligation for tobacco companies to adopt a single presentation for their brands, dropping for example the “gold” and “blue” descriptors, that could lead smokers to believe one variant was safer than another.

The fact that the courts sided with Uruguay would have been encouraging to other countries aiming to introduce controls on tobacco packaging. And even greater encouragement came recently from a World Trade Organisation ruling which deemed that the plain packaging requirements introduced by Australia as compliant with international trade and intellectual property rules – and are therefore a legitimate public health measure.

The decision has not been officially announced, but a confidential draft of the interim ruling was leaked to the media and the final decision is expected later this year. The Australian measure had been challenged at the WTO tribunal by Cuba, Dominican Republic, Indonesia and Honduras, countries whose economies strongly rely on the tobacco industry.

A domino effect

This is a blow to the industry. The short-term consequences of the WTO ruling – Imperial Tobacco’s shares fell more than 2% after the decision was leaked – reflects the longer-term danger that this ruling poses. It will likely convince other states to introduce plain packaging legislation without fear of violating international trade and intellectual property laws. It basically gives them a green light by removing the regulatory chilling effect that such legal action has produced on countries that wanted to follow Australia’s example.

After all, more and more countries seem interested in adopting standardised packaging. As well as France and the UK, Ireland and Norway will introduce packaging restrictions later in 2017, and Hungary in 2018. Many other states are debating similar measures, including New Zealand, Canada, Belgium, Slovenia, Belgium, Singapore and Thailand.

So, a legislative trend has started which aims to restrict the ability of tobacco manufacturers to make their products appealing to consumers by using eye-catching words, logos or ornamental features on the pack. And attempts by Big Tobacco to stop it by relying on legal arguments around trade and intellectual property rights are being systematically dismissed by courts around the world.

Ultimately, the industry needs to accept the fact that its ability to use fancy brands, especially on packaging, may be reduced by governments for public health reasons. Also that a company’s property rights are not absolute or untouchable. Not only does it not have enough legal basis – as has now been confirmed by several courts and tribunals – but it also disregards legitimate policies adopted by democratically elected governments.