Plain Packaging in the EU

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Consultation on Plain Packaging

The manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco products in the European Union is regulated by the EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD).

On 24 September 2010, the European Commission launched a public consultation on the possible revision of the TPD, which included a proposal to introduce plain packaging in the EU. It said:

Plain or generic packaging would standardise the appearance of tobacco packaging. Manufacturers would only be allowed to print brand and product names, the quantity of the product, health warnings and other mandatory information such as security markings. The package itself would be plain coloured (such as white, grey or plain cardboard). The size and shape of the package could also be regulated. 1

In its response, the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association claimed that such a move would breach cigarette companies’ intellectual property rights. It said:

The Commission must recognize that changes to packaging and pack labelling regulation impact fundamental legal, economic and commercial rights of tobacco manufacturers and consumers. These include… their property right in their brands (including trademarks, goodwill and brand equity)…” 2

Opposition to Plain Packaging in EU Survey

In August 2011 the Retail Newsagent claimed that “an overwhelming number of European citizens have expressed their opposition to plain packaging on cigarettes”, as noted by the European Commission in a report published on its public consultation on the upcoming revision of the Tobacco Products Directive.
The public consultation generated an unprecedented 85,000 responses, more than 82,000 of which came from individual citizens, most of whom were “largely in favour of maintaining the status quo” and felt that smokers already face too much regulation.
Concerns were also expressed about the impact of plain packaging on the illicit trade.[REF] Steven Lambert, ‘Thousands oppose plain packaging in EU survey’, Retail Newsagent, 12 August 2011[/REF]

Calls for Plain Packaging Date Back to the 1990s

Calls for plain packaging in the EU date back to the 1990s. The EU Consumers Committee – a consultative committee of the European Commission “entrusted to represent the interests of consumers at the Commission” – called for plain packaging of cigarettes in 1999. It said:

“As advertising restrictions become reality, the surfaces of the pack itself remain available for communication to customers and potential customers. The increased interest tobacco companies are showing in novel pack designs and in novel brands is likely to be a way of exploring how to market cigarettes in a limited advertising environment. The adaptation of the pack itself in this manner is but another reason that a requirement for plain packaging is sound public policy”. 3

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