McCrory blasts French plain-packaging rules

Gov. Pat McCrory has written to the French ambassador to the United States objecting to rules that would strip cigarettes in France of branding.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Gov. Pat McCrory says that North Carolina tobacco companies could be hurt by a French proposal to require "plain packaging" for cigarettes sold in France.

The plan would strip tobacco products of their customary logos and trademarks, leaving instead white space and dire warnings about the effects of smoking.

"There is little evidence that plain packaging measures are anything more than symbolism. Moreover, these rules threaten to divert attention and resources from more effective actions that could achieve France's greater goal of being smoke free during the next decade," McCrory wrote in an Oct. 6 letter to Gerard Araud, France's ambassador to the United States. "If successful on tobacco, this policy would erode intellectual property protections worldwide and empower critics to take aim at similarly situated products."
France could become the second country in the world to require plain packaging, following Australia's adoption of similar rules in 2012. According  Reuters, Britain, New Zealand and Ireland all are considering similar regulations. The impact of Australia's law has been debated, with anti-cancer campaigners saying smoking rates are down, while the tobacco industry argues it has actually seen an increase in sales. At least one stock analyst has said that the rules have hurt tobacco company Philip Morris' business in Australia.

North Carolina is the top tobacco-growing state in the nation, producing 352.2 million pounds of the golden leaf in 2010. The state is also home to tobacco companies Lorillard and R.J. Reynolds.

In his missive to the French Embassy, McCrory questions what would happen should the United States impose similar packaging rules on wine.

"Imagine if the U.S. required plain and standardized packaging for alcohol – the same standard container regardless of the type of alcohol. In France, containers play an important role, as varietals have different bottle shapes. Outstanding French companies would be outraged and would argue that the quality and distinction of their products, as conveyed through their brand packaging, were being stolen – and they would be right," McCrory wrote.

However, McCrory may find himself drafting similar letters in defense of North Carolina's tobacco interests. The Canadian Cancer Society has called plain packaging the "logical next step" in to curb smoking and the associated health risks.

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