The argument against plain packaging for cigarettes continues on in Australian court with other countries watching for the outcome. Beginning in December the olive-green cigarette packs will begin to be sold. The argument is that the “plain packaging” is unconstitutional as 100% of the back and 70% of the front is taken up by images and warnings. Brand names will be permitted, but in a small, uniform font. The tobacco industry cites the Australian constitution which states “‘acquisition of property’ by the state must be on ‘just terms”‘. In other words, the tobacco industry expects payment for removal of their graphic logos. But what would happen if other worldwide products had to be sold without their trademark logos and graphics? A good example is a comparison between cigarettes and the top two carbonated cola soft drinks in the world.
Place a can of each cola soft drink on the table, and it’s easy to see the difference, but in the dark the cans look and feel the same. If the colas were in bottles, you would be able to tell the difference because one would be in its distinctive, trademarked bottle that was specifically designed for people to be able to tell in the dark that they have the right bottle in their hand. Pick up a pack of cigarettes in the dark, and you can only tell if it is a soft pack or hard pack, you can not tell what brand of cigarette you are holding.
Once you pour the colas into glasses, you can not tell the difference between the dark colored colas by sight. The same can be said about cigarettes. Most cigarettes have a white paper tube and a brown paper filter tip. If you take several different cigarettes out of their packages and put them in a pile, most smokers would not be able to pick their favorite brand by sight.
When you compare the nutrition facts and ingredients on the cans of the top two colas in the world you notice they are almost identical; however, the formula for each of the top two colas is still a secret, much like the formulas for each brand of cigarette. But here is a major difference, colas must list their ingredients and nutrition facts on the container. Cigarettes have never listed their ingredients on a carton or a pack. In fact, it wasn’t until 1994 that a list of 599 cigarette additives was received from the tobacco companies. If ingredients had to be listed on a pack of cigarettes in such a way they could be read, any graphics and logos would no longer be used because there wouldn’t be room. Listing ingredients is one way for consumers to make a choice whether or not to buy the product.
One of the arguments of the tobacco industry is that a smoker won’t be able to see their brand because the logos will be removed. But smokers don’t walk into a store and ask for the pack with a specific logo, they ask for a name, and the new plain packs will still contain the name of the product. The pack just won’t be glitzy and bright, like colored candy packages. If consumers want what is inside the package, whether it is colas or cigarettes, they will still buy the product, plain packaging or not.
As for comparing colas and cigarettes or any other trademarked product, it is what happens when you use the product that is the real issue. We have smoking bans to protect employees and patrons of restaurants from breathing in secondhand smoke, not cola.