An international coalition of think tanks and taxpayer associations are challenging plain packaging


On 3 June 2016, an international coalition of 47 think tanks and taxpayer associations sent a letter to WHO Director Margaret Chan criticising WHO’s support of plain packaging, opposing and condemning the measure as an attack on intellectual property rights. 

The group claims the human right to own property, wheter it is physical or interlectual: “The right to own property is a fundamental human right. Thus, the protection of property rights, physical and intellectual, is critical (…) Plain packaging prohibits the use of trademarks and therefore significantly erodes the value of this intellectual property

It also went on to question the effectiveness of implementing plain packaging to reduce smoking rates, especially in Australia, where the measure was first adopted and implemented: “The data suggests that the plain packaging efforts may not be as successful as these governments would have the public believe with smoking rates actually increasing in a number of Australian states in the year following the policy’s implementation.

“This letter to Margaret Chan shows how desperate the tobacco industry is, to go to the point of mobilising its supporters unmasked!” reacted Pascal Diethelm, President of OxyRomandie, a Tobacco Control NGO based in Switzerland.

I have looked at the signatories of this letter. They are all very similar and most of them are ultra-liberal think-tanks which are members of Atlas Network, a US organization whose mission is “to litter the world with free-market think-tanks” and which received considerable funding from Philip Morris. Many of the signatories, which are not members of Atlas Network have received funding from the tobacco industry. The main themes of these organisations are economic ultra-liberalism, taxpayers’ defence and intellectual property rights. Some are one-person organisations, which maintain blogs on the web.”

In order to prove his point, as well as making the links clearer between the coalition and the tobacco industry, Pascal Diethelm has compiled a table with all the names, organisations and affiliations. Please see table here. 

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