A Styrofoam ban would hurt San Diego

In July, San Diego Councilman Chris Ward succeeded in getting a proposal, which would ban Styrofoam products ranging from cups and takeout boxes to egg cartons and mooring buoys, forwarded to the full council for a decisive vote. Ward and other proponents of the ban portray polystyrene—the main material in Styrofoam products—as environmentally damaging, impossible to recycle, and generally troublesome. However, in light of recent scientific discoveries and economic analysis, this grim portrayal is wholly unjustified.

For instance, in a recent interview, Ward told The San Diego Union-Tribune that polystyrene “does not ever break down.” However, according to a prominent 2015 study published in Environmental Science and Technology, mealworms, which live practically everywhere that humans do, not only have the ability to digest, but can survive entirely on polystyrene. Likewise, when polystyrene is burned at high temperatures, not only are the two main chemicals generated only water and carbon dioxide—the same chemicals generated in a wood-fueled bonfire—but because of the sheer abundance of heat released, polystyrene can be used to generate electricity.

In that vein, another misconception that proponents of the ban have promoted is that there are plentiful, cheap alternatives to polystyrene products. Unfortunately, according to a recent study funded by the American Chemistry Council investigating the economic effects of a potential polystyrene ban in New York City, businesses would have to spend nearly double to purchase non-polystyrene equivalent products. The potential economic consequences of Ward’s proposed ban merit serious consideration, especially because they would affect struggling small businesses.

Effectively, a polystyrene ban would raise the cost of doing business, make market entry harder, and create a less competitive economic environment for businesses that rely on polystyrene products, such as small restaurants and street food vendors. These sorts of businesses tend to have extremely thin profit margins. So, if Ward’s ban were to become law, these businesses would be disproportionately affected.

To its credit, Ward’s legislation includes a provision that would allow restaurants with revenues under $500,000 to apply for exemptions that could last for up to two years. However, since this provision applies only to restaurants and specifically to revenues and not profits, it doesn’t necessarily protect businesses with thin profit margins. Likewise, the fines that Ward’s legislation prescribes—and which will likely fall on exactly the businesses he intends to protect—are excessive: $200 for a first offense, $350 for a second offense, and $500 for a third offense (within the same 12-month period as the first offense). These aren’t losses that businesses with thin profit margins can sustain easily.

Worse, the proposed ban wouldn’t even reduce overall pollution. According to a report published by the Independent Institute, paper alternatives to polystyrene products typically create more pollution than their polystyrene equivalents and empirical research indicates that polystyrene bans don’t reduce pollution levels.

For example, a study published by the California State Water Resources Control Board examining an ongoing ban on polystyrene products in San Francisco found that the ban “does not decrease overall litter but causes a shift in litter to other materials.” And according to a related report published by the same institution, “mere substitution would not result in reduced trash generation if such product substitution would be discarded in the same manner as the banned item.” Clearly, Ward’s proposed ban, rather than substantively reducing waste, would simply raise costs.

Councilman Ward’s proposal is well-intentioned, however, many of its justifications seem to be derived more from outmoded ideas and serious misconceptions, rather than recent scientific and economic research related to polystyrene products and their alternatives. The San Diego Council should be skeptical of Ward’s rhetoric and carefully consider the needless and substantial harms that such a ban would cause.

Michael Shindler is a research fellow at the Consumer Choice Center.

Originally published at https://www.sdbj.com/news/2018/oct/14/commentary-styrofoam-ban-would-hurt-san-diego/?page=1&

Adopting failed policies: Will Singapore jeopardize its leadership in investor confidence?

While Singapore celebrates Intellectual Property Week in September 2018 aiming to become one of the global champions of intellectual property rights and investor confidence the Singaporean Ministry of Health pushes at the same time for a policy that would lead to the opposite and significantly weaken Singapore’s leadership in innovation friendliness and brand freedom in the ASEAN region. The city state could become the first Asian country to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes citing that this will reduce smoking rates and thus positively impact the health of Singapore’s population. And while the reasons for introducing plain packaging are noble and applaudable evidence from countries that have already implemented this policy suggest that it simply doesn’t work.

Australia being the world’s first country banning visible brands on cigarette packs saw a surge in organized crime making a fortune with selling cigarettes on the black market. Officially sold cigarette consumption went down but this decline got compensated by the rise of illegally sold tobacco products bypassing government quality control.

Another piece of evidence on how ill-advised this policy is the fact that French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn publicly admitting that smoking rates in her country were not impacted by plain packaging.

Some other European countries such as the United Kingdom and Ireland followed Australia’s policy on banning brands while ignoring the hard fact that the only ones who really benefit from it are criminals and terrorist groups.

Recently the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled that Australia did not violate its rules by banning branding for tobacco products and made it look as it was an isolated issue. The latest push by several Australian politicians to introduce plain packaging for financial products such as consumer loans speaks another language. Once the floodgates of branding bans have been opened it is easy to infringe on other products’ brand freedom.

Currently policy makers and public health advocates around the world are discussing plain packaging for breakfast cereals and Chile has even introduced this bizarre-sounding policy claiming that it protects children. The Mayor of London has announced advertising bans for fast food in public transport and Thailand banned food ads targeted to young adults in 2017.

Singapore currently ranks 5th in the UN’s Global Innovation Index and first in the ASEAN region. The introduction of stricter rules on how infant formula milk can be advertised and marketed in late 2017 were an unusual and counter-intuitive step away from Singapore’s regional leadership in brand freedom. It seems that plain packaging for tobacco products is next in Singapore’s pipeline towards brand infringement. A slippery slope towards more regulation and less brand freedom could include many additional policy measures and result in a massive loss of investor and consumer confidence in Singapore.

Policies that boost black markets in and around Singapore, do not cause the desired effect, and weaken its role as a regional and global champion of markets and investments should be opposed. If it wants to maintain its very strong global and regional position in brand freedom and innovation Singapore should focus on evidence-based policies and embrace brand freedom instead on infringing on commercial speech and freedom of expression.

 

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About Fred Roeder

Fred Roder has been working in the field of grassroots activism for over eight years. He is a Health Economist from Germany and has worked in healthcare reform and market access in North America, Europe, and several former Soviet Republics. One of his passions is to analyze how disruptive industries and technologies allow consumers more choice at a lower cost. Fred is very interested in consumer choice and regulatory trends in the following industries: FMCG, Sharing Economy, Airlines. In 2014 he organized a protest in Berlin advocating for competition in the Taxi market. Fred has traveled to 100 countries and is looking forward to visiting the other half of the world’s countries. Among many op-eds and media appearances, he has been published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Wirtschaftswoche, Die Welt, the BBC, SunTV, ABC Portland News, Montreal Gazette, Handelsblatt, Huffington Post Germany, CityAM. L’Agefi, and The Guardian. Since 2012 he serves as an Associated Researcher at the Montreal Economic Institute.

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About Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, based in Brussels, Belgium. Originally from Luxembourg, his articles have appeared across the world in English, French, German, and Luxembourgish. He is Editor-in-Chief of Speak Freely, the blog of European Students for Liberty, a contributing editor for the Freedom Today Network and a regular contributor for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). He blogs regularly on his website in four languages.

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About Fred Roeder

Fred Roder has been working in the field of grassroots activism for over eight years. He is a Health Economist from Germany and has worked in healthcare reform and market access in North America, Europe, and several former Soviet Republics. One of his passions is to analyze how disruptive industries and technologies allow consumers more choice at a lower cost. Fred is very interested in consumer choice and regulatory trends in the following industries: FMCG, Sharing Economy, Airlines. In 2014 he organized a protest in Berlin advocating for competition in the Taxi market. Fred has traveled to 100 countries and is looking forward to visiting the other half of the world’s countries. Among many op-eds and media appearances, he has been published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Wirtschaftswoche, Die Welt, the BBC, SunTV, ABC Portland News, Montreal Gazette, Handelsblatt, Huffington Post Germany, CityAM. L’Agefi, and The Guardian. Since 2012 he serves as an Associated Researcher at the Montreal Economic Institute.

France’s tobacco branding ban fails to deliver: An alternative approach is needed

CONTACT:

Luca Bertoletti

European Affairs Manager

Consumer Choice Center

 

France’s tobacco branding ban fails to deliver: An alternative approach is needed

Brussels, BE – After more than a year with a branding ban on tobacco products, new numbers published by the French Observatory for Drugs and Addiction reveal that cigarette sales have been cut by less than 0.7 percent.

Luca Bertoletti, European Affairs Manager for the Consumer Choice Center (CCC), said this represents a failure on the part of the French government and should prompt them to turn course.

“After more than a year of plain packaging for tobacco products in France, the policy has failed to significantly reduce smoking rates,” said Luca Bertoletti, European Affairs Manager for the Consumer Choice Center (CCC).

“Removing brands from the packs doesn’t change the behavior of the consumers, but instead promotes sales on the black market. That is troubling for public health advocates and consumers alike.

“If the French government wants to reduce the numbers of smokers it should embrace the use of harm-reducing nicotine products such as e-cigarettes and not ban brands. Brands are a powerful source of information for consumers that help them navigate among different levels of quality and price. Other countries should learn from the failure of plain packaging in France and drop this misguided policy,” said Bertoletti.

***CCC European Affairs Manager Luca Bertoletti is available to speak with accredited media on consumer regulations and consumer choice issues. Please send media inquiries HERE.***

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.

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About Luca Bertoletti

Luca graduated with a degree in Political Science from the University of Milan in December 2014. He worked as a Business Economics Analyst for the Italian magazine TheFielder in Milan and as Think Thank Coordinator for the Austrian Economics Center in Vienna. He is a fellow of Competere Institute in Rome, a columnist for Atlantico Quotidiano, and he sits on the scientific board of New Direction Italia. He has been featured in the New York Times, Radio RAI, RAI 1, El Economista, The National and many other newspapers.

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About Luca Bertoletti

Luca graduated with a degree in Political Science from the University of Milan in December 2014. He worked as a Business Economics Analyst for the Italian magazine TheFielder in Milan and as Think Thank Coordinator for the Austrian Economics Center in Vienna. He is a fellow of Competere Institute in Rome, a columnist for Atlantico Quotidiano, and he sits on the scientific board of New Direction Italia. He has been featured in the New York Times, Radio RAI, RAI 1, El Economista, The National and many other newspapers.

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About Luca Bertoletti

Luca graduated with a degree in Political Science from the University of Milan in December 2014. He worked as a Business Economics Analyst for the Italian magazine TheFielder in Milan and as Think Thank Coordinator for the Austrian Economics Center in Vienna. He is a fellow of Competere Institute in Rome, a columnist for Atlantico Quotidiano, and he sits on the scientific board of New Direction Italia. He has been featured in the New York Times, Radio RAI, RAI 1, El Economista, The National and many other newspapers.

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About Fred Roeder

Fred Roder has been working in the field of grassroots activism for over eight years. He is a Health Economist from Germany and has worked in healthcare reform and market access in North America, Europe, and several former Soviet Republics. One of his passions is to analyze how disruptive industries and technologies allow consumers more choice at a lower cost. Fred is very interested in consumer choice and regulatory trends in the following industries: FMCG, Sharing Economy, Airlines. In 2014 he organized a protest in Berlin advocating for competition in the Taxi market. Fred has traveled to 100 countries and is looking forward to visiting the other half of the world’s countries. Among many op-eds and media appearances, he has been published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Wirtschaftswoche, Die Welt, the BBC, SunTV, ABC Portland News, Montreal Gazette, Handelsblatt, Huffington Post Germany, CityAM. L’Agefi, and The Guardian. Since 2012 he serves as an Associated Researcher at the Montreal Economic Institute.

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About Luca Bertoletti

Luca graduated with a degree in Political Science from the University of Milan in December 2014. He worked as a Business Economics Analyst for the Italian magazine TheFielder in Milan and as Think Thank Coordinator for the Austrian Economics Center in Vienna. He is a fellow of Competere Institute in Rome, a columnist for Atlantico Quotidiano, and he sits on the scientific board of New Direction Italia. He has been featured in the New York Times, Radio RAI, RAI 1, El Economista, The National and many other newspapers.