Big Tobacco, as the industry is coming to be called even by objective reporters, is unlikely to find much sympathy in its fight against the latest danger to its business plain packages. Most people maybe wonder why it matters if cigarette makers are no longer permitted to put their brands conspicuous on the packs. Few estimate how much any tobacco consumer depends on its smoking brand, and how much producers invest in establishing and maintaining the brand name. ”Intellectual property” might be a grandiose name for commercial smoking branding but it is most sure property and governments are guilty of confiscating it if they legislate to prevent its use.
The New Zealand Government is thinking over ordinance, “subject to consultation”. That is maybe an invitation to industry lobbyists for to continue talking to ministers while the Government waits to see if alike law in Australia happens.
The Gillard Government’s plain-pack law, to come into force in December, has just endured a challenge by four tobacco companies who claimed the legislation breached Australia’s constitution. The High Court ruled it did not. But that is just the first of three legal tests the ordinance faces.
The second is a case before the World Trade Organisation brought by Governments of a number of tobacco-manufacturing countries with the support of brand-owning companies. They claim plain cigarettes pack is a technical barrier to tobacco trade. The third action, brought by one cigarette company, Philip Morris, challenges the legislation under the terms of an Australian trade contract with Hong Kong.
As long as the Australian regulation does not discriminate between smoking products of any country it should satisfy WTO rules and free-trade acts. The fears that these sorts of actions threaten a nation’s position and democracy are promoted mainly by those opposed to free trade in principle, not tobacco product in particular.