Property Rights Alliance

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Background

The Property Rights Alliance (PRA), formed in 2009, describes itself as an “advocacy organization dedicated to the protection of physical and intellectual property rights, both domestically and internationally”.[1] One focus of the organisation is the protection of intellectual property, which it argues fosters “growth in trade and foreign direct investment not just in the United States, but across the globe”.[2]

Link to the Tobacco Industry

On its website, the PRA refers to itself as a “special project” and “affiliate” of the Americans for Tax Reform (ATR).[1] The ATR has financial links with the tobacco industry and has frequently allied itself with it in the past, namely RJ Reynolds [3]and Philip Morris.[4]

Opposition to Plain Packaging

The PRA posted several videos on Youtube that criticised plain packaging legislation. One such video asked “what’s next?”, suggesting that public health initiatives related to tobacco could later lead to similar legislation for alcohol and high-sugar products- this is commonly referred to as the ‘slippery slope’ argument.[5] A second focused on Australia’s implementation of plain packaging and argued that the Government had been misleading when claiming that the policy had benefitted public health.[6] Both videos ended with the claim that “when Governments destroy property rights and consumer choice they undermine the very core of free societies”. On 2 June, 2016, Director General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Margaret Chan was sent a document titled ‘International Coalition Letter Against Plain Packaging’ that argued against plain packaging legislation. The letter opened with the following statement:

“We write as a coalition of 47 think tanks, advocacy groups and organizations in response to proposed plain packaging tobacco control measures, and by the announcements by several countries of their interest in such policies”.[7]

The PRA are listed as a member of the coalition and the organisation released a copy of the letter to the news publication Malay Mail .[8] The letter argues that plain packaging is “a dangerous precedent to set for commerce in general” and that “there has been a 24% increase in the consumption of illicit tobacco in Australia since plain packaging took effect”. These arguments are consistent with those made by the tobacco industry against plain packaging. Independent evidence from Australia found no such increase in illicit trade.[9][10] For more information see Countering Industry Arguments Against Plain Packaging: It will Lead to Increased Smuggling.

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Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 Property Rights Alliance, About, 2009, accessed June 2016
  2. Property Rights Alliance, News: Intellectual Property, 2009, accessed June 2016
  3. ATR, Employer of Lobbyist Report, July 1997, Bates No: 522534067-522534072, accessed December 2016
  4. Sourcewatch, Americans for Tax Reform: Ties to the Tobacco Industry, 31 August 2016, accessed June 2016
  5. Property Rights Alliance, Plain Packaging: What’s Next?, 1 June 2016, accessed June 2016
  6. Property Rights Alliance, Plain Packaging. Know the Real Facts, 1 June 2016, accessed June 2016
  7. Coalition of 47 think tanks, International coalition letter against plain packaging, 2 June 2016, accessed June 2016
  8. Property Rights Alliance and Coalition of 47 think tanks, Making the case against plain cigarette packaging, Malay Mail Online , 2 June 2016, accessed June 2016
  9. M.Scollo, M. Bayly, M. Wakefield, Availability of illicit tobacco in small retail outlets before and after the implementation of Australian plain packaging legislation, Tobacco Control doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2013-051353, [published online first 10 April 2014], accessed May 2014
  10. M. Scollo, M. Zacher, K. Coomber et al, Use of illicit tobacco following introduction of standardised packaging of tobacco products in Australia: results from a national cross-sectional survey, Tobacco Control, 2015:24:ii76-81