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Plain packaging

Legislation that we believe is ineffective and unlawful

One of the main reasons why we are against plain packaging of tobacco products is because we believe it is not an effective way of reducing smoking levels.

Some people think that the colours, designs and trademarks used on cigarette packs make them more appealing, particularly to young people.

However, there is no compelling evidence to suggest that plain packs are effective in discouraging young people from smoking, encouraging existing smokers to quit or preventing quitters from taking up smoking again.

In December 2012, Australia became the first country to introduce plain packaging. More than three years on, the long-awaited Australian Government post-implementation review came no closer to demonstrating that the measure reduces smoking rates.

Instead, the evidence from Australia shows that plain packaging is not achieving its public health goals – smoking rates have not deviated from historic trends.

There has, however, been a significant increase in the size of the illegal tobacco market – the criminals behind this illegal trade are now profiting at the expense of Australian taxpayers, with the Government losing around AUS$1.42 billion in tax revenue annually.

We believe there are more effective ways of addressing smoking rates, such as targeted youth anti-smoking programmes and better enforcement of existing laws governing the sale of products to young people.

Stripping branding strips our rights

Another important reason why we oppose plain packaging is that we consider it to be unlawful. This is because it involves governments taking property from businesses – in this case our trademarks and other intellectual property – without paying for it. That is illegal under the laws of many countries around the world.

A properly functioning consumer goods market relies on having clearly differentiated brands with different quality and price positioning.

These differentiating features are all provided by brand trademarks, which enable existing adult smokers to differentiate between brands.

Trademarks and branding also provide quality assurance for consumers and retailers – plain packaging removes this assurance.

International trade law requires countries to respect and protect trademarks. This is why four countries – Cuba, Honduras, the Dominican Republic and Indonesia – are challenging Australia’s plain packaging laws before the World Trade Organization.

A few other countries – including the UK, Ireland and France – have also introduced plain packaging legislation. However decisions in one country do not set a precedent for other governments to introduce plain packaging. No two jurisdictions are the same and any government considering plain packaging will need to ensure that it complies with the fundamental rights of businesses, as protected both by the laws of that country and internationally, while also being mindful of the ongoing World Trade Organization dispute on plain packaging.

Consultations and reports

Legal challenge against the UK Government

In March 2015, British American Tobacco launched a legal challenge against the UK Government’s decision to implement plain packaging. In an initial ruling, the English High Court found against BAT and the other tobacco claimants, declaring plain packaging to be lawful. However, BAT was granted permission to appeal the decision to the Court of Appeal. In November 2016, the Court of Appeal upheld the original decision. Our response to the initial ruling and the Court of Appeal’s decision are available below.

British American Tobacco’s response to the judgment in the UK plain packaging legal challenge

British American Tobacco’s statement on the English Court of Appeal's plain packaging decision

UK Government 2014 plain packaging consultation

The UK Government held a second consultation on the plain packaging of tobacco products in July/August 2014. Our response to the consultation sets out the reasons why we oppose plain packaging. You can download a copy below.

Our response to the UK Government's 2014 plain packaging consultation (575 kb) 

UK Chantler Review submission

In January 2014 we provided a written submission to the UK Chantler Review into the public health impacts of standardised packaging for tobacco products. Our written submission is available below:

British American Tobacco UK Limited's Response to Sir Cyril Chantler's Review (320 kb) 

UK Government 2012 plain packaging consultation

We welcome the opportunity to respond to government consultations on regulatory issues. You can download a copy of our submission to the UK Government’s 2012 consultation on plain packaging of tobacco products below:

Submission to the UK government plain packaging consultation

Tobacco regulation report

A 2011 report that we commissioned from Deloitte on packaging regulation also showed that neither increasing the size of health warnings on packs nor introducing graphic images over a number of years had directly reduced tobacco consumption.

Read the full Deloitte report here:

Tobacco packaging regulation: An international assessment of the intended and unintended consequences (2.5 mb)

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