Tobacco industry’s campaign against plain packaging is based on fear for its profits
Cigarettes are marketed in forms which appeal in particular to children
Packets of cigarettes on display. By 2014 plain packets will be in every shop in the State. Photograph: Getty Images
We don’t believe it’s ever been established that smoking is the cause of disease.”
“I’m unclear in my own mind whether anyone dies of cigarette smoking related diseases.”
“I do not believe that nicotine is addictive.”
These statements were made, under oath, by, respectively, the vice-president of the Tobacco Institute, Murray Walker, the chairman of Philip Morris, Geoffrey Bible, and the chief executive of Brown and Williamson, Thomas Sandefur, as recently as 1994 and 1998.
The tobacco industry has a long track record of hiding the truth to protect its profits. Its internal documents clearly show its own scientists were warning that smoking causes cancer since the early 1950s and that smoking is addictive since the early 1960s. For five decades, the industry deliberately concealed these facts in an attempt to deceive governments and the public about the dangers of smoking.
An article was published in this paper last Saturday stating that plain packaging of cigarettes “simply won’t work”. It was written by the director of the Democracy Institute and a Cato Institute adjunct scholar. Both of these institutes have been recipients of funding from the tobacco industry – as your paper made clear. Last week’s article is likely to be the opening shot of a long campaign by the industry. It has already spent millions in Australia, New Zealand and the UK promoting bogus claims about plain packaging. It is doing this because it is afraid of plain packaging, afraid of it because it knows that it works. It knows it will help prevent the next generation of children from becoming addicted to a deadly product that kills one in two of its users.
It fears that its profits will be hit when it can no longer package a product that kills 5,200 people in Ireland every year in a slim pink container that strongly resembles perfume or lipstick. Packets like this are especially attractive to children. If teenagers did not become addicted to cigarettes, the tobacco industry would disappear in a generation. In order to maintain its profits and its very existence, it must addict our children.
The tobacco industry’s only focus is maintaining its profits. It misled the public about smoking being addictive; it misled the public about smoking causing cancer and it is now attempting to mislead the public about the health benefits of plain packaging.
In time, its claims about plain packaging will look as bogus and as misleading as its claims about smoking being harmless and not being addictive.
Its insistence now is that its branded packs represent intellectual property that must be protected.
In my view it would be a strange society that would allow a situation where intellectual property rights supersede the rights and expectations of our children to health and wellbeing.