On the surface, what appears to be an innocuous decision can have long-lasting implications that aren’t always obvious. What could this mean for some of your favourite products?
A few governments around the world are introducing plain packaging, despite strong evidence from Australia showing that it doesn’t reduce smoking prevalence1. What does this policy decision mean for other product categories that are deemed to have a detrimental effect on health?
Most worrying for people who consume soft drinks, or fast food, is the trend that this type of policymaking accelerates. The past forty years have shown that once a precedent is set, the regulatory cascade to other product categories such as alcohol, sugary drinks and foods is inevitable. As demonstrated with the tobacco industry, regulation can often be incremental, increasing in severity over time.2
Branding is not the driver for take up of any product, yet it is an easy target for governments. However, this is a slippery slope that is both unproven in its effects and a threat to all brand owners.
Sinclair Davidson, a Professor of Economics from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University, stated in a recent radio interview on CBC that the removal of branding “creates the perfect storm of bad policy3” as the incentives to crack down on illegal tobacco have declined, while the criminality associated with contraband has increased.
Where will this stop? Products within the alcohol, food, medicines, confectionary, beverage, cosmetics and automotive industries could well be next. If it feels too far-fetched that your favourite chocolate bar might be next, consider this quote from Oliver de Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food4:
“Unhealthy diets are now a greater threat to global health than tobacco. Just as the world came together to regulate the risks of tobacco, a bold framework convention on adequate diets must now be agreed.”
Branding bans are starting with tobacco, but where will they end? Tell the government what you think by emailing your MP.
1 Reuters. (2014). Australia tobacco sales increase despite plain packaging. Available at: Click here to view Last accessed 8 August 2016
2 Deloitte. 2012. Accelerating complexity: regulatory trends in the consumer goods industry. Available at: Click here to view
3 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 2016. Smoke and mirrors? Australian professor says plain tobacco packaging doesn’t work. Available at: Click here to view