Plain packaging for fast food?

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.

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