As the European Union moves even closer to adopting plain packaging for tobacco products, Ireland has just agreed to implement a scheme to increase that nation’s black market in counterfeit tobacco and seize trademarks worth billions of dollars with its own “plain packaging” initiative. Granted, Ireland has not characterized its new plain packaging program this way, but these are undoubtedly two unintended consequences of a policy for which there is little, if any, scientific support that it will reduce tobacco consumption or advance public health.
As WLF carefully explained when Australia proposed a similar policy, plain packaging is an entirely counterproductive way to address health concerns of tobacco consumption. Plain packaging laws will have unintended consequences on those nations adopting them by creating a vigorous black market in cigarettes and forcing tobacco prices down as new and cheaper cigarettes enter the marketplace.
Such realities are unlikely to deter public health activists, whose drive toward plain packaging laws amounts to an ideological crusade. In their world, legal protections for property rights like trademarks should not exist and, as the head of the UN’s World Health Organization has publicly stated, any effort to uphold those rights amounts to “harassment.”
The perilous slope that we expressed concern about here a year ago in The Slippery Slope for Plain Packaging: Ireland, UK Look Into Idea of Plain Packaged Alcohol has become quite a bit more slippery.