New Study Shows Majority of Canadians Believe Plain Packaging is “Unnecessary” and a “Waste of government resources”

A new study from Toronto-based Forum Research shows that a majority of Canadians believe plain packaging is a waste of government resources. According to the survey, 65% of respondents believe that standardized plain packaging is “unnecessary” and a “waste of government resources.” Additionally, 81% of respondents noted that “branding on products matters.”

This study showcases the fundamental problem of plain packaging laws. By design, plain packaging removes companies’ trademarks in order to install uniform designs that make brands indistinguishable. However, brands are meant to be distinguishable. It is through noticeable features such as identifiable colors and logos that consumers are able to build trust in a preferred product. Plain packaging violates the intellectual property rights of companies by stripping them of their identifying features, therefore eliminating their ability to build rapport with consumers.

Advocates of plain packaging argue that its usage in the tobacco industry will help reduce the appeal of smoking to young people, and strengthen the impact of health warnings by replacing trademarked designs and logos with pictures of the effects of smoking. However, recent data from Australia shows that the effect of plain packaging is not as strong as its advocates predicted. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, in the years since the passage of plain packaging in 2012, the daily smoking rate did not decline over the most recent three-year period. Even though smoking has been on a long-term downward trend, this was the first time in over two decades that the daily smoking rate did not decline. If plain packaging were as effective and beneficial as its advocates believed, we would have seen a decline in the smoking rate, not stagnation. 

The survey results in Canada should serve as a notice to governments around the world about the public perception of plain packaging laws. Not only is there evidence showing that they are not effective in their goals, but they are also viewed as a waste of government resources and an unnecessary removal of branding. Even if plain packaging was effective, it is still an unjust infringement on intellectual property rights of the effected companies. 

 

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