Today Big Prohibition is celebrating its High Court victory over ‘Big Tobacco’ on the issue of plain packaging of cigarettes. Tobacco companies had challenged the legislation to have all cigarettes sold in drab green packs without logos or company identification on the basis of denial of intellectual and other property rights.
In retrospect, this may have been a mistake as property rights are not a widely respected concept in Australia. Rural landholders have largely borne the brunt of the assault on private property until now with a myriad of laws restricting their rights to carry out activities, from building right through to weed control. A quick check with them would have let Phillip Morris know, it was flogging a dead horse on the issue.
But nonetheless, big government is crowing:
At a later media conference Ms Roxon said: "Many other countries around the world... will take heart from the success of this decision today.” "Governments can take on big tobacco and win and it's worth countries looking again at what the next appropriate step is for them.”Curiously, only the manufacturers seem to note the fact that the legislation will probably be counterproductive with BATC spokesman Scott McIntire stating, ''... The illegal cigarette black market will grow further when all packs look the same and are easier to copy.''
The big tobacco companies had argued the plain packaging laws amounted to an acquisition of their valuable trademarks without proper compensation. The laws mandate that cigarettes be sold in drab olive-green packs and ban all commercial logos. Packs will be distinguishable only by printed brand names in a standard font and size.
In a statement this morning the court said: “At least a majority of the Court is of the opinion that the (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Act is not contrary to s 51(xxxi) (of the Constitution).” …
… Ms Roxon said the plain packaging laws were a vital preventative public health measure, which removed the last way for tobacco companies to promote their products. “This decision is a relief for every parent who worries about their child picking up this deadly and addictive habit,” she said.
The legislation is in fact an exercise in cognitive dissonance. Illicit drugs such as marijuana, coke, heroin, speed, and the rest are, and always have been, sold in plain packaging. Manufacturers and distributors of these products seem to studiously avoid the use of identifying logos; in fact they avoid anything that can be used to identify them. Even with increasingly draconian measures being used to stamp out their activities, sales of their products seem to be increasing.
Big wowser, big prohibition, and their ally, big government have never learned the lessons of history in relation to attempts to ban popular products. In their jaded view of society it seems that, “A ten thousand year old record of failure proves nothing; this time, doing the same thing, it’s going to work.”
That seems to be the definition of something I can’t quite put my finger on.