Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Mark Their Words, WTO

So, France is the latest country to join in the dunderheaded political mass hysteria of utterly pointless plain packaging. Except that they've added an insurance policy to the legislation in the event - the certain event, that is - that it doesn't work.
French MPs on Friday passed a government-backed proposal to force cigarette-manufacturers to use plain packets without logos, identical in all respects apart from a small mention of their name.
They also voted to impose a ban on smoking in cars, for an obligation for shops to check ID, transparency on lobbying by the industry and restrictions on where Tabacs can be situated. And then there is this.
An extra tax on cigarette manufacturers if their turnover either rises or fails to fall less that three per cent, the government's target for the reduction in sales
It's almost like they have admitted defeat before they have started. Plain packaging is the only measure amongst these which they can vaguely claim to be about driving down smoking prevalence, so they are insuring their stupidity with a tax, just in case.

This is because it is well known by all tobacco controllers that the only device that they can truly claim - without fear of dispute - to be proven to reduce smoking prevalence is duty/taxation, as ASH's APPG Chair Paul Burstow explained to us just a couple of weeks ago.
"If a tobacco levy is introduced, the tobacco industry will have to decide whether to pass on to consumers some, or all, of the cost in higher prices. That would of course have some public health benefits, as price increases are known to be the single most effective policy lever in reducing smoking prevalence"
We have to ask ourselves, then, why it is that governments are faffing around with a policy such as plain packaging - where the efficacy is hotly disputed - when they could just go for something that they know will work. Well, that's if they actually do want there to be less smoking, of course - the fact that state treasuries profit like a motherfucker from smokers tends to cast doubt on their motives somewhat, I find.

All this is very interesting in light of the fact that one of the key arguments being used by the 36 countries objecting to plain packaging via the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is that there are other options that could be employed to achieve a reduction in smoking for all ages.

Or, as the WTO rules put it (emphases mine).
Unnecessary obstacles to trade can result when (i) a regulation is more restrictive than necessary to achieve a given policy objective, or (ii) when it does not fulfil a legitimate objective. A regulation is more restrictive than necessary when the objective pursued can be achieved through alternative measures which have less trade-restricting effects, taking account of the risks non-fulfilment of the objective would create.
What Burstow has told the UK parliament is that there is - indeed - something far more effective than plain packaging, and that it's name is taxation. What France is admitting, too, is that if - as we can expect from the evidence from Australia - plain packaging doesn't work to reduce prevalence by an arbitrary 3%, they will resort to something that they know will work, taxation.

They couldn't make a better case for those objecting to plain packs at the WTO if they tried. I do hope the lawyers acting on behalf of those 36 countries are noting all this down, because it is quite clear that there are, indeed, "alternative measures which have less trade-restricting effects" which don't involve stealing billions of dollars of intellectual property from legal businesses like plain packaging does.

They need only quote the politicians and policy detail of the daft countries who are determined to try something stupid before doing something that works.


Steve Brown said...

I really can't get worked up about what the Government tries to do to bully me. I now grow my own tobacco, I've learned how to cure it, I've purchased my own leaf-slicing machine and I now roll my own tax-free fags. I am pleasantly pleased with the results of misting the leaves with a modicum of fine single malt Scotch half-way through the curing process (Sorry Leg Iron).
I don't care what THEY do to fag packets. I shall continue to smoke, regardless.

Bemused said...

Sorry Dick but I think it is about time that either governments stop faffing around and ban tobacco or all tobacco companies collectively pick a deserving country and pull out permanently. No manufacturing, packaging, distribution, or retail. This would enable the selected country to experience all the benefits they apparently desire.

nisakiman said...

Now the latter suggestion I find most appealing.

And the 'deserving country' that springs to mind is the uber-nanny nation of Australia. It would be fascinating to see how they would deal with all the tobacco sales going underground, thus not only leaving a huge budgetary black hole, since the illicit market wouldn't generate any tax revenues, but also a massive bill for policing the black market.

Delicious. It would really cause the government hypocrites to float to the surface like the turds they are.

truckerlyn said...

Still buy ours in Majorca. Don't know if Spain is planning plain packaging, but even if they do, it won't stop us smoking! In fact, both my doctor and psychologist have said I NEED to keep my nicotine levels up! As the NRT stuff doesn't work for me, neither do the electronic alternatives, I have to stick to the real thing! Sadly, they can't prescribe those!

If only governments realised how much harm the ban has done to many people and how much more many of us are costing the NHS as a result! They also might not have so many people needing to use the underfunded Mental Health resources!

It totally makes me sick just how much all their unnecessary interference in personal lives really has a huge detrimental effect on so many people. Hope they are really pleased with themselves!

Junican said...

Funny that. I'm off to Majorca this coming weekend (Magalluf). Unless prices have risen, I expect to pay €41 per 200. The exchange rate a the moment is about €1.36 = approx £30 for 200. Of course, I have my home-grown as well and other stuff.

truckerlyn said...

Have a great time. We usually go mid April but this year is our 10th wedding anniversary and my husbands 60th the same day so we are going next month.

You might be ok with the price of cigs, but I believe they go up sometime in April.

We go to Cala Millor, just up the east coast from Porta Christo and the Caves of Drach.

Junican said...

And to you. How young you are!! If I was 25, your hubby would be 10. On our very first cruise, herself and I were transported to The Azores. We went on an organised trip to the top of a volcano and were invited to be amazed that there were two pools of water at the bottom. One was light blue and the other was dark blue. There was some sort of explanation that the difference was due to the different minerals which the volcano spewed out millions of years ago. Sadly, I was not filled with wonder. I suppose that that is why I could be called a philistine. Boozy Magalluf for me!

truckerlyn said...

Well enjoy. You certainly 'sound' much younger! Good for you too for continuing your travels - many older people don't and I think that is a great shame.

Enjoy your boozy holiday. Neither of us are great drinkers, but with the pressures of work we go to relax. Have been going to the same hotel now, twice a year, for the past 12 or 13 years. We know the staff really well and also know that the food and service is good, so why go somewhere else?