WHO has concluded that the current strategy of visible warnings and informative commercials isn’t enough; the government has to take greater steps to manage this kind of behavior. Seven million deaths is a hard pill to swallow, especially considering the amount of research that has laid out exactly how dangerous smoking is, but there is an underlying argument that should be addressed here. It is one of personal accountability. If you are of legal age to purchase a pack of cigarettes or a bottle of cask strength whiskey, the onus should be on you to make that decision. Knowing full well the possible outcomes, it’s an individual's right to weigh the consequences and choose for themselves how they would like to proceed. Alarming as it would be to lose such basic freedoms, the immediate disasters would come in the form of revenue loss and the cessation of growth. The entire industry would take a remarkable nosedive, as valuation consultancy group Brand Finance estimates losses to be greater than $293 billion. Another important factor to consider is the efficacy of plain packaging. Australia implemented these regulations on tobacco products in 2013, making it the first country to do so. While it’s still quite early to draw definitive conclusions, the daily smoking rate dropped 1.6% from 2011 to 2014. How much of that reduction is actually attributable to this legislation? A much bigger opponent to traditional smoking is electronic cigarettes and vaporizers, whose popularity has skyrocketed in the last ten years.
Fortunately, it seems that, at least in the United States, serious discussions of plain packaging are still way down the road. There is some vocalized support from non-profit organizations, however, with proponents claiming that their interests are purely the public’s wellbeing. Their intentions might be in the right place—after all, the people have a right to more transparency regarding the products they put in their bodies—but plain packaging is simply not the answer. Just consider the negative effects it would have on thriving creative industries. The demand for alcohol would never go away, but the variety that we’re accustomed to would disappear before our very eyes. Business would flood the black market in a desperate attempt for collectors and enthusiasts to get their hands on traditional bottles. Industrial producers would weather a sizeable deficit, but their portfolio would be the likely choice in a market bereft of brands or advertisements. The beverages that are meant to be savored, ones made from quality ingredients with a price tag reflective of the care and cost involved in their production—they wouldn’t be able to compete. That is what would be lost, and if the effort is to steer consumers away from irresponsible drinking habits, perhaps removing the artistry and craft is not a suitable option after all.
Devon Trevathan is a writer based out of Nashville, TN. She loves spirits that are older than she is, grower-producer style, and dogs.
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