Guest article: Institute of Economic Affairs

Plain confectionery packaging a heavy-handed response to health concerns

Plain packaging laws for cigarettes could be extended to confectionery, representing a huge threat to hard-won company trademarks, says the Institute of Economic Affairs. ©iStock/AlexLMX
Plain packaging laws for cigarettes could be extended to confectionery, representing a huge threat to hard-won company trademarks, says the Institute of Economic Affairs. ©iStock/AlexLMX

Related tags World trade organization Australia Obesity

Legislating for tobacco-style plain packages for confectionery is a disproportionate response to the obesity crisis and strips companies of valuable trademarks, writes the Institute of Economic Affairs' head of lifestyle economics.

‘Plain packaging’ is a policy which eliminates all branding and visual design elements on products and forces manufacturers to use state-mandated colors and typefaces to create homogenized packaging with no differentiating features.

Plain packaging is currently only applied to tobacco products in a handful of countries worldwide, but if health activists have their way that will change.

It is becoming clear that health activists have a broader agenda to use the ‘tobacco playbook’ in their efforts to apply extreme regulations to other sectors. 

Plain packaging threat

Campaigners in Australia have called for plain packaging of children’s toys​ on the grounds that existing packaging encourages gender stereotyping.

guest photo
Christopher Snowdon is the Head of Lifestyle Economics at the IEA. He is the author of books such as The Art of Suppression, The Spirit Level Delusion and Velvet Glove.

With governments such as the UK passing tobacco-style ‘sin taxes’ on soft drinks and discussing tobacco-style advertising bans on fast food, we must wonder if the day will come when they demand tobacco-style packaging laws as well?

The governments of Australia, the UK, France, New Zealand and Norway have all passed legislation enforcing plain packaging on tobacco products, and signs indicate that confectionery will soon follow.

Already, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has targeted confectionery for stronger regulatory​ measures.

The Ontario Medical Association​ has already begun designing plain packaging for pizza boxes and soft drinks, replacing company logos with photos of diseased livers and gangrenous feet.

 Government lawsuits

Source: OMA

Fortunately, some governments are fighting the slippery slope that plain packaging represents.

Indonesia and the Dominican Republic have filed a lawsuit​ against Australia with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and a lively debate has erupted in anticipation of the verdict.  

If the WTO rules in favor of Australia, it potentially clears the way for other governments to implement similar laws and could redefine the intellectual property rights of consumer brands in other sectors such as Cadbury, Coca-Cola and Mars.

Neither side of the argument denies that very high levels of sugar consumption increase the risk of obesity and everyone is agreed on the need to look for solutions to diabetes and heart disease, but to strip a business of its valuable trademarks is neither a proportionate nor effective way to go about it.  

 [Background reading: Mars wrote to the UK government in 2012​ to express concerns on plain packaging laws spreading to food.]

[Guest Article policy: ConfectioneryNews occasionally posts guest articles that spark debate. The articles are selected purely on their editorial value by our staff. We do not accept payment for any guest contribution.]

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Posted by Waseem Latif,

After going through this article a joke comes in my mind lol well amazing article but packaging companies has nothing to do with these I guess :P I myself is running a packaging company named King Packages in Lahore Pakistan so we get orders from these kind of businesses regularly. visit my website

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plain packing

Posted by howard scaife,

How very clever our "betters" are, as they rush at top speed back to the wonderful days of 1950,s with plain packing designed by the ministry of truth!
Lets make this a super world wide campaign to include clothing that only has functional use.
Chairman Mau and Joseph Stalin will be toasting these visionaries ,as the loss of advertising will close down private media allowing only govt owned media to promote these fine products.
No need to compete so we can close lots of factories . Have a nice day.

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