Australian Plain Packaging law anniversary and UK developments

Sunday 1 December 2013 marked the first anniversary of the implementation of standardised tobacco packaging in Australia.

While a couple of EU countries said they would consider the adoption of standardized packaging earlier this year, the EU had advised to wait for the outcome of the WTO challenges with respect to the Australian law.

Not an actual PP proposal
--but maybe in future?
On 8 October, the European Parliament, in plenary session, voted on the proposed revision of theTobacco Products Directive, and rejected the compulsory plain packaging requirement. However, member states still have the possibility to implement more stringent rules.

On 28 November the UK government announced  that it will continue to review the evidence for standardised or plain packaging of tobacco products. Following reports by KPMG (reported by IPKat here) and London Economics here explaining that plain packaging might not having the desired effect, the UK Government has commissioned an independent inquiry into plain packaging for tobacco products which will be led by Sir Cyril Chandler a paediatrician. The report is due in March 2014.

 A Written Ministerial Statement  from the Minister of Health  Jane Ellison was published on 28 November

The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department of Health (Jane Ellison):
“I am today announcing that we have asked Sir Cyril Chantler to carry out an independent review of the public health evidence on standardised packaging of tobacco products. 
Tobacco use is a significant public health challenge. Our evidence-based tobacco control strategies play an essential part in delivering the Government’s continued commitment to reduce the number of people in this country who are dying prematurely.  
It is important to explore avenues that have the potential to contribute to this longstanding  aim. In July we said that we would keep the policy of standardised packaging under review as we examine the emerging evidence. As part of this ongoing work we have therefore commissioned a review with the following terms of reference:
1. To give advice to the Secretary of State for Health, taking into account existing and any fresh evidence, as to whether or not the introduction of standardised packaging is likely to have an effect on public health (and what any effect might be), in particular in relation to the health of children. It will be a matter for the Chair to determine how he undertakes this review and he is free to draw evidence from whatever source he considers necessary and appropriate

2. The review will report by March 2014.

3. It will be an Independent Review, with advice to the Secretary of State contained in a report. An independent secretariat will be appointed by the Chair, who will set out the method of how he will conduct the review in more detail in due course. The secretariat will be wholly accountable to the Chair, and it will be for the Chair to guide and task them in their work as he sees fit.
We intend to reach a decision on standardised tobacco packaging once Sir Cyril has made his report.  
The Government will introduce standardised tobacco packaging if, following the review and consideration of the wider issues raised by this policy, we are satisfied that there are sufficient grounds to proceed, including public health benefit. 
The Government also intends to take advantage of the opportunity offered by the Children and Families Bill, which is currently being considered in the House of Lords, to table a Government amendment to take enabling powers now which would allow regulations to be made to introduce standardised tobacco packaging later, if it is decided to proceed with this policy”.
Actual brand --
as seen in Italy
This amendment would provide the power to the Secretary of State for Health to introduce plain packaging without the need for primary legislation as long as they are convinced that it will address public health concerns for those under the age of 18. Further information on the Government  website can be found hereSimilar plans may soon be adopted in New Zealand and Ireland. Like in Australia, Ireland’s draft legislation would ban forms of branding like trademarks and logos on cigarette packs and would determine the size and positioning of the health warning (to more than 60%). The name would be presented in a uniform typeface for all brands, and the packs would all be in one plain, neutral colour.
Australian Plain Packaging law anniversary and UK developments Australian Plain Packaging law anniversary and UK developments Reviewed by Unknown on Monday, December 02, 2013 Rating: 5


  1. Laetitia,

    The second report you quote was prepared by an outfit called "London Economics". As far as I can see from web searches, this is a private outfit without any apparent connection to the "London School of Economics", except as previous affiliations of certain members of its staff. A case of brand confusion?

    BTW, the press release mentions this:

    London Economics were commissioned by Philip Morris International to undertake this analysis.

  2. Is it not inevitable that legislation will come to pass that introduces uniform/plain packaging for tobacco products? Over an extended period we have seen this sector squeezed in the options it has for promoting its products: television advertising, cinema advertising, poster sites, newspapers and magazines, sports sponsorship, shop fronts and even display of the product in a retail setting - all gone.

    How much longer must we wait for a government with some balls to wake up to the fact that branding sells products? Colourful logos and packaging introduce new generations of addicts to these products, seduced by the cachet and power of their branding. Rob them of this differentiation tool and we will see their products wither and die - like the addicts they spawn.

    It may well be that smokers in Australia are buying illegal/smuggled branded cigarettes, but this only proves the allure of the brand over all else. Any brand, as long as the consumer can believe that they have some differentiation from the person standing next to them, smoking in the rain.

  3. I presume, sales of cigarette cases have gone up in Australia. It's one thing buying them in these horrid packs, but quite another carrying them around after you've purchased them. Customers are free to transfer them into own cigarette cases.

    I hate smoking, but consider the plain packaging law to be highly illiberal. If the cigarette manufacturers are interested in circumventing this law, I propose they start selling cigarette cases and packaging their cigarettes within sleeves inside the plain packaging that can be easily transferred after purchase into a cigarette case.

    I have a trade mark related question. Would they be breaching the plain packaging law if they license their logo to a cigarette case manufacturer? It will definitely open up a new source of revenue for the tobacco companies if they go down this route. Looking at the smart-phone accessory market, consumers are not hesitant in spending more money on cases (in most cases unnecessary). I bet, carrying your cigarettes in shiny silver cases with logos, might make smoking even more fashionable. Although I'd hate to promote smoking, I'd really like this law to backfire.

    As for the UK, if the legislators think cigarette smoking is so harmful and addictive, why dont they ban it? Otherwise, the current system of statutory warnings on cigarette packaging is a reasonable and balanced approach.


  4. Anonymous wrote:

    >Would they be breaching the plain packaging law
    >if they license their logo to a cigarette case

    Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011 s34 seems to cover this, it is an offence to offer for sale non-compliant ‘containers’ where containers seems to have a fairly broad meaning.

    container includes (without limitation) any pack, carton, box, tin, packet, bag, pouch, tube or other container.

  5. From a preliminary scan through the Australian legislation to which a link was so helpfully provided, it appears that the act only applies to containers that are intended to ultimately contain tobacco products for retail sale. The act only seems to apply to containers per se which do not contain a tobacco product when sold in a non-retail manner to a third party manufacturer, and which are intended to be filled with tobacco products by the third party for retail sale. A container that is intended to be sold as a retail product per se in which the container does not contain a tobacco product at the time that retail sale of the container takes place, the tobacco product only being put into the container by the end user after retail sale has taken place, does not appear to be covered by the legislation.

    It is more than 40 years since I last smoked and I have no particular axe to grind, but I think it is instructive to consider the circumstances which led to "Drum" loose tobacco gaining a significant part of the UK market. I understand that this market penetration was achieved at essentially zero cost to the manufacturer after advertising had been banned. The large quantities that were illegally imported into the UK created such a high customer demand that it became worth while to import it legally. Cost, not advertising, seems to have been the initial driver, and smokers evidently like its quality enough to pay the full price for the legitimate product.

    I hope that mentioning the name of a tobacco product on this blog is not breaching any regulations: if so, moderator, please replace with asterisks or whatever!

  6. Ron, I think I'll let the Australian judges decide the issue - but your point is probably the reasonable interpretation.

    As far as advertising/promotion goes, you probably also make a reasonable point. But I think the overall issue is whether smoking rates have dropped over the period that such activities have been constrained. Of course the causal effect may not be proven, it would be interesting to see research on the issue.

    However, if branding didn't manipulate the buying habits of smokers, and help recruit new smokers, then the tobacco companies wouldn't be so bothered about uniform packaging.

  7. "smokers in Australia are buying illegal/smuggled branded cigarettes"
    Because they are very much cheaper than the legal stuff. There is a huge price gradient between price in China and price in Australia and that is plenty enough of incentive.


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