Lawyer Colin Hulme seeks to sow doubts about the introduction of plain, standardised packaging (Friends of The Scotsman, 31 March) by suggesting that removing branding and logos from cigarette packs “may” break international law, breach the European Convention on Human Rights, deny an independent Scotland entry to the World Trade Organisation – and lead foreign powers to ban labelling on Irn-Bru.
Plain packs “may” also result in a plague of locusts but that too is unlikely.
In order to make his argument Mr Hulme has to ignore the difference between “compulsorily acquiring intellectual property” and limiting the occasions where brands and logos can be promoted. Tobacco branding is already banned from use on billboards, TV adverts, sports sponsorship, etc without the government actually acquiring any intellectual property of the tobacco companies.
The proposal now is merely to extend those advertising restrictions to the packaging.
It is not good enough to claim that “recent commentary estimated this would trigger compensation payments of £500 million in Scotland” when the comment in question was unsubstantiated posturing from a tobacco company.
Similar claims that plain packs would cost the Australian government billions have been the subject of ridicule.
He is good enough to add a disclaimer at the end that his article is “based on research conducted for (tobacco company) Philip Morris International”, but this is no basis for credible analysis.
Concerns over biased research and data manipulation are such that the British Medical Journal recently announced it would no longer publish research partly or wholly funded by tobacco companies.
All the evidence suggests plain packs will work by deterring young people from taking up smoking.
That is why there is such a desperate campaign from the tobacco industry to stop it.