Tobacco industry “invisible hand” behind Adam Smith Institute plain packs report

Monday 20 February 2012

A report by the Adam Smith Institute published today in advance of a public consultation on tobacco packaging advances the views of the tobacco industry, namely that putting cigarettes in plain standardised packaging would have no public health benefit, would increase the illicit trade in tobacco and would set a “dangerous precedent” for other products.

All of these arguments misrepresent the truth and ignore the fact that glitzy packs are designed to attract new young smokers to replace the100,000 in the UK who are killed each year by their habit. [1]

Firstly, there is now a large body of evidence to show that plain packaging will be effective. Experimental studies and surveys from around the world show that plain packs are less appealing, strengthen the impact of the health warnings, and make the packs less misleading. [2]

Secondly, there is no evidence that plain packaging will lead to an increase in tobacco smuggling. Existing packs are already easily counterfeited. Plain packs will still have to have covert markings, tax stamps and health warnings that are required on current packs so they will be no easier to counterfeit. And the argument that it will “breach international trade rules and confiscate tobacco companies’ intellectual property” is also fallacious, according to the tobacco industry’s own legal advice, revealed in litigation. [3]

Thirdly, the “domino theory” i.e. that once a measure has been applied to tobacco it will be applied to other products is patently false. The same argument was used against the ban on tobacco advertising, but 9 years after the tobacco ban in the UK, alcohol advertising is still permitted with no sign of it being prohibited. Tobacco is a uniquely dangerous consumer product which is why there is a WHO health treaty (the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control) to regulate tobacco use.[4]

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH commented:

“Why would the tobacco industry and its allies be so vehemently opposed to plain packaging if they weren’t so frightened that plain packaging would work? The Adam Smith Institute, by publishing this report, is acting as the mouthpiece for the tobacco industry, as it has done on many previous occasions. It should come as no great surprise that the Institute takes a pro-tobacco line but it should be more transparent about its association with Big Tobacco. ”

Notes and Links:
1] For more information on plain packaging including examples of how packs could look in the UK see:
[2] Plain packaging of cigarettes: a review of the evidence. Quit Victoria
[3] Callard, C. Packaging Phoney Intellectual Property Claims. Physicians for Smokefree Canada, June 2009.

An high resolution image of a plain cigarette pack is available at: 

The Adam Smith Institute which describes itself as “the UK’s leading libertarian think tank”, has close ties with the tobacco industry. According to an internal Philip Morris International memo, The Institute would conduct training for journalists on free market principles that would be “ideologically consistent with [Philip Morris’] issues and interests”. The ASI has also coordinated the Confederation of European Community Cigarette Manufacturers’ response to European tobacco control initiatives. See: