Plain packaging for fast food?

September 10th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Daniel Fisher at Forbes writes:

Anti-smoking activists call it “,” but it’s anything but: The black boxes with strident warnings and gruesome pictures of dying smokers that Australia requires on tobacco products are eye-catching by design.

They’re also drawing the attention of legal scholars who wonder if Australia’s law stripping cigarette companies of the right to use their trademarks could open the door to similar measures against other products activists consider unhealthy.

A pending challenge before the World Trade Organization could determine whether Bloombergian anti-obesity crusaders, say, could require pictures of diabetes-ravaged feet on cans of soda or morbidly obese patients on bags of potato chips.

I have no doubt that the zealots want to extend plain packaging to everything they disapprove of – alcohol, soft drinks, McDonalds, chippies, chocolate etc.

Gervais says he’s no fan of the tobacco companies. But he is concerned that the WTO could diminish trademark rights if it rules in favor of Australia on tobacco packaging. This is the “first TRIPS debate on the intersection between trademarks and health,” he told me. “It’s a huge precedent to set no matter how you cut it.”

Only countries can challenge a national law under the WTO’s dispute-resolution process. So far Cuba, Honduras, the Dominican Republic and the Ukraine have filed complaints against Australia to protect their cigar and cigarette businesses. The U.S. has been conspicuously silent, although it joined some 30 countries and the EU in seeking observer status.(Note: the White House recently revised its position on the Trans Pacific Partnership treaty to allow slightly tighter regulation of  tobacco than other products.)

Interesting observation on the TPP.

16 Responses to “Plain packaging for fast food?”

  1. Sector 7g (285 comments) says:

    The only item in New Zealand that needs “gruesome reminder” pictures on it is the Green Party logo.

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  2. Sector 7g (285 comments) says:

    Actually, this may seem a bit out there but hang with me. Rather than using plain packaging, lets legislate that every food deemed “fatty” has to have carcinogenic products in them that causes 80% of “daily users” to die of some form of cancer. This will surely put an end to anyone ever eating fatty foods again. Once this stage is complete we can do the same with cigarettes.

    This may seem far more drastic than plain packaging, but surely something this extreme will put an end to all this “free will”. Don’t you think?

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  3. wat dabney (4,135 comments) says:

    The timeless allure of fascism.

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  4. anonymouse (891 comments) says:

    Last time I looked most Fast Food in New Zealand was already in “plain packaging”

    i.e anything from the local Fish’n’chip or Chinese/India/etc are either wrapped in plain newsprint or regular plastic containers,

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  5. kowtow (13,219 comments) says:

    Progressives,doncha just love ’em?

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  6. queenstfarmer (794 comments) says:

    There must be some psychological power-lust that these zealots get from imposing their views on everyone.

    For these people, I suspect it’s not just the pride of believing that they have “saved” us lesser, weaker beings from our own destructive cravings, it’s the thrill of power they get. Experts enforcing best practice on the world, whether we want it or not. So efficient, so effective.

    They will not stop with cigarettes.

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  7. Sector 7g (285 comments) says:

    They will not stop with cigarettes

    That is true, kids cake stalls are already being shut down.

    “Child entrepreneurs have had their food stalls shut down under Auckland Council food safety regulations.”

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  8. Ed Snack (2,795 comments) says:

    Projection is the way to understand it. These people know, deep down inside, that they really are weak, spineless creeps, and therefore assume that everyone is the same. Thus they must be protected from their own weaknesses by those who are truly aware. Self hatred which they then project upon some politically acceptable object, someone or something that has achieved success, unlike them…

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  9. wikiriwhis business (5,174 comments) says:

    All part of the conspiracy people

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  10. calendar girl (1,869 comments) says:

    Another attack by control-freak dreamers on business and the “free market”.

    Fatty foods, carbohydrates with their blood sugar effects, cholestrol-producing eggs, caffeine – they and dozens of other everyday products are under incessant attack from academic epidemiologists who have never spent a day in a business enterprise.

    Each liitle campaign promoted in the unerring certainty that “the science is settled”.

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  11. PaulL (6,059 comments) says:

    Plain packaging is a bit of a laughing stock around Australia. Smokers I know say things like “I’m getting the pack that’s bad for unborn children – as a male that’s not going to have health impacts on me.”

    I credit the people who create these initiatives with good intentions. They observe that many people are fat (and getting fatter) and they want to do something about it. Everything else they’ve tried has failed, so their choices appear to be to give up or to attempt to regulate what people eat. I can see the logic chain, I just think it has a number of fallacies in it:

    1. Is it any of their business whether people are fat or not? The basic premise that the government should be regulating to stop people getting fat is one that I question

    2. Is there that strong a correlation between eating bad food and being fat? I eat McDonalds, even enjoy it sometimes. I’m not fat. But I don’t eat it all that often, and I exercise, that may have an impact. Is it right to regulate a product that has a safe dose? (I can follow that argument that tobacco has no safe dose, but certainly alcohol has a beneficial dose, and food (even “bad” food) has a safe dose too).

    3. Are there other ways that we’re not considering for political correctness reasons? Is it too comfortable being fat? We’re not allowed to stigmatise fat people, make them pay double for airplane seats, laugh at them in public or any of the other things we used to do. So perhaps it’s easier to be fat than it used to be? Maybe people need a kick start that gets them to think “I need to lose weight”. It’s not that it can’t be done (although I agree it’s hard).

    4. Is their proposal even likely to work? Is there any evidence that changing McDonalds packaging would make any material difference, particularly to the at risk cohort? What I mean by that is that the casual McDonalds eater probably doesn’t know where their nearest McDs is, they see the advertising and think “maybe I want a burger.” But your average fat bastard probably knows every fast food joint for a mile around their house, and has a standing order at each of them, advertising or lack of it makes no difference to them (OK, that may have been an unfair generalisation, but you get the point).

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  12. Rightandleft (782 comments) says:

    Funny how those on the left who want to legalise drugs like marijuana on the principle that they only harm the users (an idea which I agree with) are also the people who have such low opinion of society that they believe the government has to step in and protect people from themselves when it comes to tobacco, gambling and fast food.

    How is it consistent to move towards decriminalising pot while at the same time demonising and taking steps towards criminalising tobacco?

    I think the real answer is that tobacco is controlled by big business, the capitalists the Greenies hate. Their real enemy is business, whether it be McDonald’s, Sky City, BP or Phillip Morris. I wonder if their tune will change if pot does become legal and becomes a product grown and sold by big businesses.

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  13. Nigel Kearney (1,988 comments) says:

    I’m starting to think we should just make tobacco completely illegal.

    It would be wrong, but not as bad as the amount of tax they are currently taking from people on limited incomes and the resources being wasted on anti-smoking efforts. Unlike other drugs, tobacco is not something you can easily grow yourself or obtain illegally and there aren’t obvious substitutes.

    Of course it is wishful thinking that the busybodies might just celebrate victory and then quietly fuck off. Instead they would turn their attention to something else and it may be safer to keep them busy with anti-smoking activism where sensible people are largely unaffected.

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  14. PaulL (6,059 comments) says:


    Unlike other drugs, tobacco is not something you can easily grow yourself or obtain illegally

    I suspect that’s only because it’s legal. If it were illegal, I’m sure you would be able to obtain it illegally.

    I agree with you, I have a real problem with the concept that we demonise tobacco, tell everyone that there is no safe dose and spend enormous amounts of money trying to stop people using it. In parallel we tax it and make a fortune in taxation revenue from those who continue to use it. It seems a bit hypocritical, and if it’s as serious a concern as we make it out to be, surely just making it illegal would be a better answer.

    Of course, the fact that prohibition has never worked anywhere for any substance could be a consideration. 🙂

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  15. OneTrack (4,602 comments) says:

    “Last time I looked most Fast Food in New Zealand was already in “plain packaging””

    Yeah, but the real target of these left-wing (they are always left-wing) nut jobs are the big American companies. Because everyone “knows” they are “bad” (and evil)

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  16. ChardonnayGuy (1,605 comments) says:

    Does Subway count as fast food? It’s the only conveyer belt repast that I currently consume. And it’s not the Left that wants to ban or restrict junk food, it’s nutritionists and dieticians who are concerned at the preservative chemicals and flavouring involved in their manufacture. Any such restrictions are proposed for strictly evidence-based reasons to do with human diet, metabolism and physiology.

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