Plain Packaging for Tobacco products
The idea of introducing plain packaging for tobacco products could potentially expand the scheme on to food and drink items which would hit both packaging suppliers and brand owners.
However, one prominent packaging industry has questioned the probability of this scenario happening and added that any plans to put regulations on a worldwide industry like food would need international level action rather than at national level.
The leading UK food trade said it did not know of any current debate about extending the move to food and drink packaging.
According to the tobacco proposal guidelines, cigarette packs would only include the product’s name and a colour-printed health warning.
A group of UK-based packaging companies voice their concern that if tobacco packs lose their branding, the decision would set a dangerous precedent for the regulation of other consumer goods.
The group, which consists of API Group, Parkside Flexibles, Chesapeake, Weidenhammer and Payne, said the proposal would create a lethal example of all branding and marketing banned on products such as alcoholic drinks and high fat or sugary foods.
Mike Ridgeway, group spokesperson and packaging consultant and former managing director at Weidenhammer UK, said: “Whilst ‘plain’ or ‘standardised’ packaging is of massive and immediate concern to the many small and medium sized companies involved in tobacco supply chain, it is the precedent it would set for other sectors that we see as extremely dangerous in the longer term”.
He added: “With legislation around minimum alcohol pricing in the pipeline, high profile debates about a ‘fat tax’ and calls for cigarette style health warnings on alcohol and ‘junk food’; brand owners and manufacturers have to open their eyes to the very realistic threat of plain packaging being introduced on a wide range of consumer products”.
He claimed that the Parliamentary Select Committee for Health has already called for evidence on “plain packaging and marketing bans” in its scrutiny of the government’s alcohol strategy.
Ridgeway also said that the firms that focus on design, printing and inks would be reduced if the ban for branded packing expands to the food section.
However, one figure in the UK packaging industry was doubtful that the food industry would be the next to suffer and warned the packaging industry about getting involved into the furore.
An insider from the industry said: “Although I’ve not heard anything about extending this proposal to food and drink, it would be complacent to disregard it altogether. While there is a risk of this happening I don’t believe it is a high risk.
“It would be so difficult to implement in practice. Would there be scenario where a can of normal Coca-Cola was in plain packaging but the diet version was allowed to be normal? Of course not”.
He also said that the packaging sector was also a serving sector and had a duty to its customers by providing them with whatever they require but it had no control over what the companies did or did not put in the products.
He added: “The food and drinks sectors are international ones and any action on this issue would require concerted international agreement”.
The UK Food and Drink Federation (FDF) said: “It’s not an issue we are aware of at present”.