'Effectiveness of plain packaging of tobacco products needs carefully monitored', Society says
The effectiveness of plain packaging for tobacco products needs to be carefully monitored should new laws be implemented, the Law Society of Scotland said today, 7 August.
The Society was responding to the UK Government consultation on the introduction of regulations to standardise the packaging of tobacco products. It references the Chantler Review, an independent report on standardised tobacco packaging published in April this year.
Alison Britton, convener of the Society's Health and Medical Law Committee said:
"We support the intent behind any initiative which seeks to promote public health and reduce illness and disease. The UK Government's consultation is primarily focused on the benefits which further regulations might have on children under the age of 18, a particularly important age group.
"In the UK all retailers will be prohibited from displaying tobacco products at point of sale from April 2015, so there already is a substantial legal framework in place regarding tobacco control. Australia is the only jurisdiction to introduce plain packaging and Ireland currently has a Bill going through its Parliament. The very limited experience from other countries and the absence of any long term study makes it difficult to gauge which exact tobacco control measures are having a positive effect.
Ms Britton continued: "On the basis of the limited research available, the Chantler Review concludes that standardised packaging is likely to lead to a modest reduction in the uptake of smoking. Such outcomes will no doubt, benefit from continuing and longer term research and review.
"If the Government does proceed with implementing the regulations then the effectiveness and progress of the new laws on standardised packaging should be carefully monitored."
The proposed regulations also have clear implications for tobacco companies from an intellectual property point of view.
Caroline Pigott, member of the Society's Intellectual Property Law Committee said: "Standardised packaging would, by its very nature, inhibit tobacco companies from being able to distinguish their products from those of other competitors. As this is the key function of a trade mark, the question arises as to whether standardised packaging deprives the tobacco seller's ability to use their trade marks, and therefore their main form of branding. It raises some key intellectual property questions which will no doubt stimulate lively legal argument".
Notes to editors
The consultation document and the Law Society's full response can be found on the Society's website
The Chantler Review is an independent review into the standardised packaging of tobacco undertaken by Sir Cyril Chantler. It can be accessed at http://www.kcl.ac.uk/health/packaging-review.aspx
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