Tobacco’s plain packaging war could escalate to alcohol – warning

The current debate over plain packaging for tobacco products could well spill over into alcohol industry exports according to Mike Ridgway, spokesman for the Consumer Packaging Manufacturers Alliance, a new alliance of packaging experts.

He was responding to Indonesia’s recent threat that it would force alcohol products to use plain packaging in retaliation to global moves to force plain packaging onto tobacco products. As one of the largest exporters of cigarettes in the world, the industry is worth €480 million to the Indonesian economy.

Indonesia is currently joining Ukraine, Honduras, the Dominican Republic and Cuba in taking Australia to the World Trade Organisation arguing a breach of trade and intellectual property rights over its insistence on the use of plain packaging for tobacco.

“We’ve long feared that introducing plain packs for tobacco products would eventually lead to plain packaging in other sectors," Mike Ridgway warned recently, “It now looks like these fears could become reality sooner than anyone expected.

“Indonesia represents a market of nearly 250 million consumers and if they retaliate to plain pack cigarettes by adopting branding bans for alcohol it would affect all alcohol products sold to Indonesia from anywhere in the world.

“Irish whiskey would be among those items to drop its branding and packaging for grotesque graphic health warnings,” he stated, suggesting that the current trade dispute with tobacco could well spill over into alcohol and other exports.

“It will also place hundreds of jobs in the retail sector in jeopardy,” he added. Shops fear the impact that the measure will have on their trade where tobacco is worth up to €500million a year to Dublin’s retail economy.

“We urge the Irish government to launch a new consultation on plain packaging and based on the latest evidence, we urge them to abandon this disastrous policy with widespread unknown consequences,” he concluded.

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