TPA Sends Letter Urging Government of Ireland to Oppose Plain Packaging

Michi Iljazi

January 21, 2014

Roodstown Castle, Co. Louth, Ireland (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

In addition to the work that the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) does in the United States, TPA has been involved in issues that reach across the world including Australia, Europe, and Uganda to make sure that elected officials are spending taxpayer dollars wisely and creating a business friendly climate that is beneficial to taxpayers, consumers, and businesses.   One issue in particular that TPA has been following is ‘plain packaging’ of tobacco products (read previous work by TPA here).  Specifically, in Australia in 2012, the nation passed a law that “prevents tobacco advertising and promotion of tobacco products and tobacco product packaging by making it an offence to sell, supply, purchase, package or manufacture tobacco products or packaging for retail sale that are not compliant with plain packaging requirements.” The results have been disastrous. Now, Ireland appears to be headed in a similar direction.  Today, TPA sent a letter to Taoiseach (Ireland’s equivalent of Prime Minister) Enda Kenny, and the Irish government, to urge them to not adopt plain packaging regulations.  Australia has shown us that plain packaging is the wrong policy and that this policy harms businesses and taxpayers.  If Ireland adopts plain packaging rules it will hurt taxpayers, consumers, and businesses in both in Ireland and the United States.

Read the full letter below:

January 21, 14

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD

Department of the Taoiseach

Government Buildings

Upper Merrion Street,

Dublin 2, Ireland

Dear Taoiseach Kenny

The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA), based in the United States, appreciates governments that work in the best interest of taxpayers, consumers, and businesses. Ireland has clearly worked hard to establish itself as a strong environment for business with its low tax structure. The many major investments made by leading global companies across a number of sectors certainly reinforces this notion.

TPA supports efforts such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and appreciate the leadership role that Ireland will continue to play to support a strong TTIP that provides for strong intellectual property protection that fosters continued economic growth. Economic growth benefits taxpayers by allowing government officials to refrain from raising taxes.

The respect for intellectual property is a critical factor for any innovative company making decisions regarding investments in overseas markets. This is particularly true for high-growth sectors from pharmaceuticals to information technology for which the protection of intellectual property and global brands is essential to success and the ability to invest in future breakthroughs.

It is in this context that we wish to raise a note of concern regarding proposals in Ireland which would impose “plain packaging” requirements on tobacco products, thereby limiting the ability of companies to market their products under legal and legitimate global brand names. Such a move would indicate an underlying lack of appreciation for intellectual property rights that could have a chilling effect as other IP dependent companies consider investment decisions in Ireland.

Further, Ireland’s plain packaging proposal raises serious concerns in terms of its compliance with global trade rules under the World Trade Organization (WTO). Australia is facing a WTO case regarding this very matter.

A recent study by KPMG has indicated that plain packaging rules in Australia have resulted in a 154% increase in the consumption of illicit cigarettes and a corresponding loss of almost $1 billion in tax revenue since it was imposed in 2012.

We certainly respect Ireland’s right to pursue public interest objectives through accepted regulatory means that meet international obligations. Strong intellectual property protections are certainly not in any way at odds with this goal.

As Ireland seeks to build upon its successful efforts to attract world-class companies to invest there, we hope that you will recognize strong intellectual property protections as one of the most important elements of this strategy.

Sincerely,

David E. Williams

President

Taxpayers Protection Alliance