A group of the UK’s leading packaging manufacturers have joined forces to oppose the government’s proposals for ‘plain’ packaging of tobacco products and are urging other stakeholders from the packaging, print, food and drink sectors to voice their objections before alcoholic beverages, sugary drinks or high fat foods are next on the Department of Health’s packaging hit list.
The proposals are already being condemned by MP’s, business leaders and commentators due to the unprecedented encroachment on freedom of expression, the open invitation to illicit trade plus the threat it would present to jobs and the wider UK economy. Of paramount importance to the newly formed group though, is the precedent the plan would set for future regulation of other consumer good’s sectors.
Mike Ridgway, spokesperson for the group which includes API Group, Parkside Flexibles, Chesapeake, Weidenhammer and Payne comments:
“Whilst ‘plain’ or ‘standardised’ packaging is of massive and immediate concern to the many small and medium sized companies involved in tobacco supply chain, it is the precedent it would set for other sectors that we see as extremely dangerous in the longer term.
“With legislation around minimum alcohol pricing in the pipeline, high profile debates about a “fat tax” and calls for cigarette style health warnings on alcohol and ‘junk food’; brand owners and manufacturers have to open their eyes to the very realistic threat of ‘plain’ packaging being introduced on a wide range of consumer products.
“Indeed the Parliamentary Select Committee for Health has already called for evidence on “plain packaging and marketing bans” in its scrutiny of the government’s alcohol strategy.”
“There is a great danger that the Government rushes through legislation without proper investigation or thought which would destroy the value created by branded goods and all the investment in creativity, design and innovation which goes with it.
“In a ‘plain packaging’ world, there would be no way for new products or competitors to gain entry to the market or existing players to fight for market share except on a price basis. This would have huge implications for brand owners and the advertising, design and print/packaging sectors. Ironically, all these changes would have the effect of lowering selling prices which could actually encourage levels of consumption.”
With the government already losing an estimated £3.1 billion a year in tax revenues due to contraband tobacco, the group also wants to use its expertise in brand protection and packaging security to highlight how the legislation would lead to an increase in intellectual property crime and counterfeiting due to the ease with which unbranded packaging could be copied.
“In addition to being heavy handed and giving the UK a reputation as a bad place to do business, the proposal would be an open invitation to the black market. Counterfeit and contraband products are already a major problem wherever brands are highly valued or market prices are inflated by high taxation.
“It is obvious that plain packaging would be easier to copy and consumers would become less interested in whether goods are genuine or not. This would not only erode volumes for bona fide producers and retailers but would also reduce government tax revenues, boost the criminal economy and present an increased health risk from consumption of fake product.”
The consultation period for the proposals was announced by the Department of Health in April and ends on the 10th July. The group is encouraging interested parties to register their views through industry associations and channels to government as well as by responding directly to the consultation via the Department of Health website at www.dh.gov.uk/health/2012/04/tobacco-packaging-consultation.