Consumer Goods/Lifestyle

Allowing cannabis delivery is a good start. But too much weed is still being sold on the illicit market

Even with looser regulations, consumer demands still aren’t being met, writes David Clement, North American affairs manager at the Consumer Choice Center

The state, which legalized recreational cannabis in 2016, has imposed a stay-at-home order to prevent the virus’ spread, and many people fear going out because of the infection risk.

One of the biggest criticisms of Canada’s legalization of cannabis is that its cumbersome rules and limited retail options can’t compete with the black market. What would help? Allowing cannabis home deliveries from retailers to continue after the pandemic.

It would also vastly improve the monopolized delivery system that existed before COVID-19 loosened some distribution regulations. For example, prior to the pandemic, the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) was incapable of doing same-day delivery via Canada Post. When the OCS did attempt to offer same-day delivery by contracting out a third party service, the provincial online retailer could only offer it to select areas, and soon discontinuedthat option altogether due to high demand.

The temporary measure allowing curbside pick-up and home deliveries by retailers is a no-brainer, but as with any government policy, the devil is in the details. Ontario’s is still a far-from-perfect system.

For one, there’s a provision that the delivery person must be an employee of the retailer. This is an unnecessary restriction that significantly limits scaling up. Retailers aren’t equipped with the capital nor the expertise to operate a fleet of vehicles. This is especially true as demand rises. They should be able to contract this out just like any other business can.

Secondly, the Ford government should allow third-party services to be used by licensed retailers, without the need for a licence. All Ontario has to do is follow Manitoba’s lead, which allows this. Making this change has the consumer benefit of allowing tech service companies to enter the market, giving legal retailers a leg up on the black market.

Eliminating the employee provision and allowing non-licensed tech companies to serve storefronts expands the options retailers have for getting products to customers. They could completely outsource their delivery through a third party with a cannabis delivery license, or they could work with other delivery apps, like restaurants do.

The province could require those non-licensed drivers to have their CannSell certificate, which is similar to Smart Serve for alcohol. CannSell costs $64.99 and would provide drivers the expertise to spot impairment and protect access from minors.

For the roll-out, the province could make this type of delivery legal tomorrow, and give drivers a 30-day grace period to complete their CannSell. When the province announced that restaurants could deliver alcohol with food orders, they did exactly that, giving food delivery drivers a month to get their Smart Serve Certificate.

Making cannabis delivery permanent rather than temporary would be a huge step forward for the legal market in Ontario. It would significantly benefit retailers. But more importantly, it would benefit consumers by expanding and enhancing their options.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

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

Ban on cigarettes during MCO strengthened black market: Survey

The ban on cigarette sales during the MCO has increased the sale of contraband products which could have been averted, says industry player.

KUALA LUMPUR, May 6, 2020 — A blanket cigarettes sale ban during the Movement control order (MCO) gave the black market for tobacco a boost.

This is what a public opinion poll shows. It says a majority of Malaysians believe the cigarettes sale ban was negative.

The latest Asia Pacific survey saw over 1000 adults responding in Malaysia. It was commissioned by the advocacy group, the Consumer Choice Center (CCC).

The leading independent polling company, Populus was responsible for the fieldwork. It found that:

  • Eight out of ten Malaysian adults (80%) agrees that people would defy a ban on tobacco sale during a lockdown. They would go to great length to get the products.
  • Almost three-quarters of all respondents (72%, and 78% of smokers) agrees that people would continue to purchase tobacco products, but that sales would shift to black/illegal markets.
  • Unsurprisingly, most Malaysians (58%) thought a restriction would encourage people to quit.
  • 71% agrees that prohibition could increase the spread of coronavirus. They say the illegal sale of products that do not meet safety standards in distribution is risky.
  • the spread of Coronavirus through the sale of illegal products that do not meet safety standards in distribution.

Fred Roeder, Managing Director of the Consumer Choice Center says,“Our research clearly shows that people will still smoke and will likely go to great lengths to find alternative supply whenever theirs runs dry.

“Under restrictive MCO measures, encouraging unnecessary movement put lives at risk by increasing the chances of contracting and transmitting Covid-19.”

Roeder says the MCO caused a disruption in the distribution of legal cigarettes.

This resulted in an explosion of illicit cigarette trade, as highlighted by the relevant authorities in recent news reports.”

The vast majority of respondents (72%) say the ban on the sale of tobacco diverts vital resources from combatting Covid-19. They cite the increase in enforcement cost and time.

“Malaysian enforcement authorities have recently expended plenty of resources to counter illicit trade. There were roadblocks and thorough checks on food couriers and e-hailing service providers.

Nevertheless, this was the cause of unnecessary delays in an already difficult situation,” explains Roeder.

“While the initiative to encourage people to stop smoking during MCO is well-intentioned, it was a failure. Instead, this move has enriched transnational criminal syndicates and corrupt facilitators while reinforcing the endemic presence of illegal cigarettes in Malaysia,” he says.

“As Malaysia enters the phase of conditional MCO, the resumption of normal sales by legitimate players may not be enough to break the stranglehold on the market that illicit traders have gained over the last one-and-a-half months.”

He says there is a need for more effort, be it through bold policies and stricter enforcement to control this scourge effectively.

CCC conducted the survey in five countries in the Asia Pacific region including Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines and South Korea.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

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

The value of packaging design goes beyond pretty pictures

The value of packaging design goes beyond pretty pictures says Fred Roeder

When people talk about the importance of design, people will often point to iconic logos and branding that we now take for granted, whether it’s the Coca Cola motif, Mr Pringles crisps or Jack Daniels bottles.

But the importance of design isn’t just in the design itself, but in the intellectual property behind the design and its intrinsic value to brand holders and consumers. Design cues provide information and knowledge around the products consumers buy and help to build confidence. Removing design elements simply limits an individual’s ability to make informed decisions about what they are buying.

Late last year, the outgoing UK Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies, called on the government to threaten the food industry with ‘cigarette style’ plain packaging for sweets and chocolates if they failed to meet sugar reduction targets. Dame Sally called the for the sugar tax programme – already in place for soft drinks – to be extended to cereals, yogurts and cakes if targets are not met by 2021, and applied to calorie-rich foods by 2024.

Creative solutions

Dame Sally’s parting shot at the food, drink and retailing industry comes hot on the heels of the UK’s Food Ethics Council which also called for an outright ban on cartoon mascots on junk food, including fizzy drinks, crisps, cereals and biscuits, in a bid to curb obesity and diseases like diabetes

No one is denying that a there’s a sensible debate to be had around responsible consumption, but unproven laws are not the solution. Rather than scaring people into changing their behaviour or punishing their pockets through ‘sin taxes’ and brand censorship, legislators need to be more creative when it comes to promoting good health.

While it’s not yet government policy in the UK, it soon could be and it will be interesting to see if Chris Whitty, Dame Sally’s replacement, picks up the cudgel and continues to beat food and drink manufacturers, retailers and consumers into submission.

Lawmakers often take their lead from public health bodies like the Food Ethics Council and supranational organisations 13like the World Health Organisation, who just love to wield the ban hammer in the name of protecting public health.

It’s happening already with Ireland’s Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, which became law in October 2018, regulating advertising and promotion, insisting on mandatory cancer warnings, and banning alcohol branding from sports stadiums.

Restricting marketing and communications in certain product categories and, in some cases, banning their availability altogether, will only serve to stifle innovation and violate consumer rights.

You only have to go back 100 years to the US bringing in the Volstead Act, which prohibited the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages, to know that banning something simply drives demand underground, fuelling criminality.

Freedom of choice

Unbranded goods provide a boon for organised crime gangs as the labels, packaging and containers are much easier to fake. Spurred on by the promise of enormous profits, the trade in unregulated illegal products represents a tempting proposition for counterfeiters, with huge costs to governments and the public alike. Therefore, the total damage to businesses affected is likely to be higher. Brand censorship will almost certainly lead to losses in the creative industries, including design and advertising services, which are heavily reliant on FMCG contracts.

Brand Finance estimates that the potential value loss to businesses worldwide would be $430.8bn if tobacco-style plain packaging were extended to the beverage industry. This refers to the loss of value derived specifically from brands and does not account for further potential losses resulting from changes in price and volume of the products sold, or illegal trade.

Compounding the issue is a complete lack of analysis-based dialogue between brand owners, consumers and regulators. IP laws and frameworks are positive examples of these groups working together to protect and enforce the interests of rights holders, whilst at the same time allowing consumers the freedom to make their own choices. Despite these efforts, the infringement of IP rights remains a significant problem. According to a 2019 OECD – EUIPO report, the total volume of trade in fakes was estimated at $509bn, or 3.3 per cent of global trade (up from 2.5 per cent in 2013).

The way forward

No brand has a God-given right to exist or survive. But the threat of restrictive business regulation and illegal trade will only serve to hasten their demise by undermining intellectual property rights and weakening their inherent value.

The Food Ethics Council and Public Health England are right to call for a debate on how we can make the country healthier, but the negative impact of limiting brands could wreak havoc in the packaging and creative industries, causing a major headache for big retailers, with no conclusive evidence that the policy will achieve the desired health objectives.

That is why closer collaboration and co-operation between policymakers and industry participants, and education over legislation, provides the best way forward. Instead of health warnings and brand censorship, we should use incentives and encouragement to change consumer behaviour.

Fred Roeder is the Managing Director of the Consumer Choice Center, an independent non-profit organisation, which promotes ‘consumer choice’ among different products, innovations and price classes. The Consumer Choice Center supports lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science and consumer choice. The CCC believes regulators on local, national and supranational levels keep regulating more and more areas of consumers’ lives. This leads to less consumer choice and makes products more expensive.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

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

Rokok Elektronik, Kesehatan, dan Kebebasan Individu

by Haikal Kurniawan

Rokok elektronik, atau yang akrab disebut vape, saat ini merupakan produk yang sedang mendunia, termasuk di tanah air. Di Indonesia sendiri, menurut laporan dari CNBC Indonesia, ada sekitar 1 juta pengguna vape pada tahun 2019 lalu (CNBC Indonesia, 2019).

Bisnis rokok elektronik di Indonesia juga mampu meraup pendapatan yang besar, hingga 200 miliar sampai 300 miliar setiap bulannya (Mix.co.id). Omset yang besar ini juga berdampak pada cukai yang tinggi, hingga 700 miliar rupiah per November 2019 (Waspada.co.id, 2019).

Banyaknya pengguna vape di Indonesia ini menimbulkan kontroversi. Tidak sedikit pihak yang menentang produk tersebut, dan meminta kepada pemerintah untuk segera melarang peredaran vape. Salah satu penentangan tersebut datang dari Komisi Nasional (Komnas) Pengendalian Tembakau.

Melalui manager komunikasinya, Nina Samidi, Komnas Pengendalian Tembakau menghimbau kepada pemerintah untuk menarik seluruh produk rokok elektronik yang beredar di pasar Indonesia. Selain itu, Badan Pengawas Obat dan Makanan (BPOM) menyatakan bahwa vape merupakan produk yang berbahaya. (Media Indonesia, 2019).

Namun, apakah anggapan ini merupakan sesuatu yang tepat? Mari kita lihat faktanya terlebih dahulu.

Berdasarkan laporan dari organisasi Asosiasi Paru-Paru Amerika (American Lung Association), rokok konvensional, ketika dibakar, menghasilkan lebih dari 7.000 zat kimia. Dari 7.000 zat kimia tersebut, 69 diantaranya telah diidentifikasi sebagai penyebab kanker (American Lung Association, 2019).

Sementara, dua bahan yang paling umum yang digunakan oleh dalam bahan cair vape adalah propylene glycol (PG) dan vegetable glycerin (VG), yang digunakan untuk membuat uap dan perasa. Bahan-bahan ini merupakan sesuatu yang terbukti aman dan merupakan bahan yang umum digunakan di berbagai produk makanan dan minuman seperti soda, es krim, dan produk-produk berbahan dasar susu (Food and Drugs Administration, 2019).

Organisasi pemerhati kesehatan asal Britania Raya misalnya, Public Health England, pada tahun 2015 menyatakan bahwa rokok elektronik 95% lebih aman dibandingkan dengan rokok tembakau konvensional (Public Health England, 2015).  Hal yang sama juga dinyatakan oleh Kementerian Kesehatan New Zealand dan Kanada.

Keduanya menyatakan bahwa rokok elektronik jauh lebih aman daripada rokok konvensional, dan merupakan salah satu solusi terbaik untuk membantu perokok untuk berhenti merokok. Kementerian Kesehatan Kanada misalnya, menyatakan bahwa rokok elektronik jauh lebih aman daripada rokok tembakau konvensional, karena tidak melalui proses pembakaran yang mengeluarkan zat-zat berbahaya yang membuat kanker (Health Canada, 2018).

Lantas bagaimana dengan berbagai kasus kematian yang terjadi di berbagai tempat karena penggunaan vape. Bukankah hal tersebut merupakan bukti bahwa rokok elektronik merupakan sesuatu yang berbahaya?

Di Amerika Serikat misalnya, per Februari 2020, lembaga kesehatan Pemerintah Amerika, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mencatat setidaknya ada 2.800 kasus orang-orang yang dibawa ke rumah sakit karena penggunaan rokok elektronik (CDC, 2020). Adanya kasus tersebut juga merupakan penyebab utama Presiden Donald Trump mengeluarkan peraturan pelarangan produk vape yang memiliki rasa selain menthol dan original, pada bulan Januari 2020 lalu.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

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

Ontario cuts essential workplaces list to limit COVID-19 spread

The Ontario government ordered more workplaces closed — including bricks-and-mortar cannabis shops and some industrial construction sites — in a stepped up campaign to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

“We can’t stop now,” Premier Doug Ford said Friday. “There’s 1,600 people out there who need us to do everything we can in the next 30 days to help save them.”

Public health COVID-19 models show that many people could die by the end of the month unless more stringent social distancing measures are taken.

A new list of businesses were ordered to arrange for staff to work remotely or shutter their operations by 11:59 p.m. Saturday.

“All industrial construction except critical industrial projects will stop,” Ford said. “Only necessary infrastructure projects like hospitals and transporation will continue.”

While no new residential construction projects will be allowed to break ground, those already under construction will continue.

Ford said the vast majority of Ontario workers have now been told to stay home.

“We’ve had to shut down most of our economy,” he said.

Businesses that remain open include those that supply essential services, supermarkets, restaurants for take-out or delivery, alcohol stores like the LCBO, pharmacies, gas stations, funeral services, vets for urgent care only, hotels and cheque cashing services.

Insurance, telecommunications, transportation and maintenance services can also continue.

Stores that sell hardware, vehicle parts, pet and animal supplies, office goods and computer products will only be allowed to provide alternative methods of sale such as curb side pick-up or delivery.

David Clement, of the Consumer Choice Center (CCC), said it was a shame the Ford government is shutting down cannabis retailers.

“This move does nothing but embolden the black market, who will obviously continue to meet consumer demand,” he said in a statement.

The online option for buying from the Ontario Cannabis Store remains available.

Ford said he’s acting on the advice of his Chief Medical Officer of Health in shutting down more sectors of the economy.

However, he said people will still need to access their medication and food.

“As soon as you take that food off the shelves and close down retail you get … anarchy,” Ford said. “You get civil disobedience — people are going to do what they have to do to feed their family — and we don’t want to go to that point.”

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

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

New York, Texas Ease Alcohol Delivery Law Amid COVID-19 Crisis

A restaurant employee pours a glass of white wine at a table with glasses of red wine.

MOST STATES DON’T ALLOW CONSUMERS TO PURCHASE ALCOHOL ONLINE FOR DELIVERY.

Around the country, law against alcohol delivery are strict, which presents an interesting situation given the mass social isolation from the COVID-19 outbreak. 

According to Consumer Choice Center, Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Nebraska, and New Hampshire are the only states that allow consumers to buy alcohol online and have it delivered to their home. Alabama, Oklahoma, and Utah ban all alcohol shipments entirely. All of the other states fall in between in terms of allowing shipments of wine, shipments of alcohol after an in-store purchase, and shipments from wineries in the state. 

“Now is as good a time as any to consider changing these laws and empowering consumers to receive alcohol at home just like any other product,” said Yaël Ossowski, Consumer Choice Center deputy director, in a post on the organization’s website. 

In New York, which now leads the country in the amount of COVID-19 cases, the State Liquor Authority announced a change in the law in which restaurants and bars can sell wine and liquor for takeout or delivery, but the consumer must also purchase food. The change was meant to support restaurants that are facing declining sales due to the statewide closure of dining rooms. Restaurants and bars in New York were already allowed to sell beer for takeout or delivery. 

Following New York’s lead, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Wednesday a waiver to allow restaurants and bars to deliver beer, wine, and mixed drinks with the purchase of food. He also told the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission to allow businesses to sell back unopened product back to manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers. 

In Ohio, no laws have changed, but restaurants and bars have been allowed to return unopened high proof liquor products bought within the past 30 days. The same is true for businesses that had to cancel events between March 12 and April 6. If the gathering ban in Ohio continues past April 6, then Ohio’s regulatory body will continue to allow the return of unopened product. 

More than half of states have closed dining areas and have limited restaurants and bars to takeout and delivery. Earlier in the week, President Donald Trump recommended that people do not gather in groups of more than 10. Meanwhile restaurants nationwide have seen sales plunge, and some foodservice organizations have asked the administration for financial relief. 

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

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

Medical homegrowers are supplying the illicit market. Here’s why more policing isn’t the answer

The Consumer Choice Center’s David Clement explains how easing cannabis regulations could help personal growers enter the legal space

In less than two years, cannabis has gone from an illegal product to an essential service during a pandemic. But despite reports of increased sales as consumers stockpile for COVID-19 lockdowns, Canada’s cannabis market is struggling.

We kicked off this year with declining stock prices for licensed cultviators,
stagnant sales and rumours of a pending insolvency crisis for many mediumsized companies. The current coronavirus crisis could make this trend worse as global markets plummet.

There are a lot of reasons why Canada’s cannabis industry stumbled out of
the gate. Poor retail access, specifically Ontario; over-regulation and high tax rates. And establishing brand awareness in a market that prevents even the most modest forms of advertising and branding is challenging.

But there’s an additional factor at play: The program for growing medical
cannabis for personal use is undermining the legal market and fueling the
illicit market. Far more cannabis is being grown than medical cannabis consumers require — and some of that cannabis is being sold on the illicit
market. I’d like to propose a few potential solutions.

Breaking down the numbers

As a result of several Supreme Court rulings, medical cannabis consumers
have the constitutional right to grow their own medicine and can apply to do so through Health Canada.

The latest figures show that there are 28,869 Canadians who have their determined by Health Canada. Medical consumers are generally authorized
to consume between five and 60 grams of cannabis per day.

We don’t have national data, but general trends can be extrapolated from
provincial data. Via an access to information request, the average permit holder in Manitoba is authorized to consume 18 g/day, which entitles them to grow 88 indoor plants per year.

Quebec’s data is nearly double that of Manitoba: A 30 g/day average entitles
a medical consumer to grow 146 indoor cannabis plants each year. If we take provincial figures and forecast them on a national scale, permit
holders are growing a staggering amount of cannabis. Each indoor plant can produce between 250-600 grams per harvest, of which there are usually
three per year. One outdoor plant, with only one harvest, can yield as much
as 1.8 kg/year. A conservative estimate? The average Manitoba permit
holder could grow up to 66,000 grams (or 66 kg) of cannabis annually.

Rather than trying to arrest their way out of the problem, the government should focus on transitioning permit holder growers into the legal market

Applying that math to all Canadian permit holders would mean that in 2019, they grew an estimated 1.9 million kilograms of cannabis — approximately 158,000 kg — per month. Compare that to the legal recreational industry’s output: In August of 2019, the total amount of all legal recreational cannabis available for sale was 61,000 kg. Medical permit growers in Canada could be growing 2.5 times more cannabis than is legally available for sale in the recreational market. If Quebec’s figures are more representative of the national average, these growers would be growing 4.5 times more cannabis than is legally available.

Permit holders are growing more than then they need for personal
consumption. At 18 grams per day, a permit holder would need 6,570 grams
annually, while being permitted to produce more than 66,000 grams a year.
So where does most of the excess cannabis end up? The illicit market: York
Region Police’s recent bust showed that criminal networks were abusing the Health Canada permit process. The same thing happened
recently in Alberta, where a biker gang bust showed that illicit cannabis was grown by a Health Canada permit holder.

Either organized crime is taking advantage of Health Canada’s process, or
permit holders are enticed to sell their excess cannabis to criminals so it can be resold. This is part of the reason why the legal recreational market hasn’t truly materialized.

Increased policing isn’t the answer

But the government shouldn’t target legitimate permit holders. Doing so
would violate their constitutional rights, and would be exceptionally cruel
given how marginalized this group has historically been. Rather than trying
to arrest their way out of the problem, the government should focus on
transitioning permit holder growers into the legal market. A first step for this transition would be to restructure the regulations for growing cannabis.

Right now, licensed producers (LPs) have to comply with nearly pharmagrade regulations. Instead, they should more closely resemble food grade production standards. This would give medical permit-holders a realistic shot at earning a micro-cultivator licence and entering the legal market. It would also benefit existing producers by reducing compliance costs.

There are a few onerous barriers permit holders have to jump over that could be eased to help transition them into the legal space: The security clearance process is one, but we could also be easing facility regulations, reducing licensing fees, reducing the batch test minimum of 100 g/batch, or fast tracking the licensing and renovation amendment timelines. This would clear a path for these growers to enter the legal market and incentivize them away from the illicit market.

To say Canada’s legalization process thus far has been messy would be an
understatement. At almost every turn the government has over-regulated
the legal market, which is what keeps the illicit market thriving. Easing these heavy-handed regulations could bring more growers into the legal sphere and make for a more consumer-friendly market all around.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

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

War on Plastic Makes the Virus Worse

Despite the rapid spread of COVID-19, New York City is still waging its war on water bottles and plastic bags. Early last month NYC’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, signed an executive order banning the sale of water bottles at city facilities. On top of that, NYC moved to ban plastic bags at the end of February.

The first major flaw in continuing the war on plastic is that it undoubtedly makes the COVID-19 pandemic worse. For weeks, residents have been using these publicly owned facilities without the option of being able to purchase a water bottle, and have been shopping without the option of getting a plastic bag.

Both reusable bottles and reusable tote bags present a huge risk in terms of COVID-19 because eliminating them exponentially increases the number of source points for virus exposure. An exposed filling station at a community facility could rapidly spread the virus to hundreds, while it is already known that reusable bags carry significant risks for cross-contamination.

These bans are also misguided when we evaluate them in terms of environmental effect. First off, water bottles are 100 percent recyclable. All the city has to do to ensure that these bottles are disposed of properly is not wave the white flag and give up. It doesn’t make any sense to try to curb the sale of products that can be fully recycled, especially when the city has a recycling program in place.

In regards to plastic bags, conventional thinking suggests that banning plastic bags will result in people using reusable bags and that this reduction in plastic use will have a positive effect on the environment. Research from Denmark’s Ministry of the Environment actually challenged that conventional wisdom when it sought to compare the total effect of plastic bags to their reusable counterparts.

The Danish government found that alternatives to plastic bags came with significant negative environmental effects. For example, common paper bag replacements need to be reused 43 times to have the same total impact as a plastic bag. A conventional cotton bag alternative needs to be used more than 7,100 times to equal a plastic bag, while an organic cotton bag has to be reused more than 20,000 times.

We know from consumer usage patterns that the likelihood of paper or cotton alternatives being used in such a way is incredibly unlikely. These results were also confirmed with the United Kingdom’s own life-cycle assessment, which concluded that these alternatives have a significantly higher total effect on the environment.

On top of all that, these bans will ultimately do little to solve the serious problem of plastic waste in the world’s oceans and rivers. The United States as a whole contributes less than 1 percent of the world’s mismanaged plastic waste. Up to 95 percent of all plastic found in the world’s oceans comes from just 10 source rivers, which are all in the developing world.

In contrast, countries like Indonesia and the Philippines contribute 10.1 percent and 5.9 percent of the world’s mismanaged plastic. China, the world’s largest plastics polluter, accounts for 27.7 percent of the world’s mismanaged plastic.

Plastic bans might sound productive to stem plastic pollution, but the evidence doesn’t suggest that the United States is a significant contributor for mismanaged plastic, which means that a New York City ban will do little to actually reduce plastic pollution.

Good public policy should be measured on its outcomes. Banning water bottles and plastic bags makes COVID-19 exposure worse in the middle of a global pandemic, promotes alternatives that have serious negative environmental externalities, and does little to solve the issue of mismanaged plastic.

For the sake of everyone involved, Mayor de Blasio should end his war on plastics.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

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

Embracing free trade during a pandemic

Whether we will be able to get back on track on globalisation and economic liberalisation will be one of the most important tests for the post-coronavirus world. While lockdowns introduced by some governments are hopefully not going to stay there indefinitely, the perception of the role of international cooperation is likely to undergo some substantial shifts in the long run. International trade as a key instrument of promoting peace and prosperity will be a first casualty.

The EU-Mercosur agreement and the UK government’s ambition to become a global champion of free trade have become some of the most recent exciting developments. Despite a popular belief that free trade has been in decline for a couple of years, the number of new interventions implemented each year globally has sharply dropped. On the other hand, It would, of course, be desirable to see more liberalising policies instead but sometimes the absence of damaging action is sufficiently good in itself.

Graph Number of Interventions
Source: globaltradealert.org

The outbreak of COVID19 which has shattered the very roots of international cooperation also threatens this dynamic. One after another, countries have turned inwards to deal with the pandemic and shut themselves down from the rest of the world. Lockdowns are a timely reminder that in spite of globalisation – or even hyper globalisation in case of the EU – nation-states remain the driving force of global order. Where does this leave international trade?

International trade has lifted billions out of poverty and benefited consumers of all nations, races, and genders. More importantly, it has encouraged states to look beyond their borders to improve things at home through an increase in choice and lower prices as well as more export opportunities. By facilitating and sustaining integrated supply chains, the success of international trade made states mutually dependent. For better or worse, the concept of the all-producing nation-state was dissolved in international trading relationships.

Trade protectionism originated as an aspiration to achieve self-sufficiency and reduce reliance on foreign supplies. At the outset of trade interventionism, uncontrollable factors such as the possibility of crop failure in other countries were used to justify import restrictions and the subsidising of domestic agriculture. The inconsistency of such a worldview was that countries that promoted self-reliance were in no way immune to bad harvests themselves and hence had to turn to others in their hour of need. 

China is currently being affected by 6490 harmful trade interventions, the highest in the world. Ironically, the origin of COVID19 also comes from the city of Wuhan in China. President Trump – known for his extremely hostile attitude to trade with China – even called it the “Chinese virus”. It sounds like an excellent excuse to introduce more tariffs in the future, doesn’t it?

Graph Harmful
Source: globaltradealert.org

The idea of national self-sufficiency sounds great on paper but it is very hard to achieve now that we have progressed so far with globalisation. From iPhones to agriculture and vital drugs, we are dependent on other countries, and especially on China. 

Even in the EU, lockdowns and travel restrictions imposed on national levels have resulted in new border checks causing traffic jams and supply delays. “All our food is getting to the warehouses — with delays — but it’s getting there,” said Bart Vandewaetere, vice president for government relations at Nestlé. In the worst-case scenario, we would be left without food on our shelves. Hence why the first thing governments should do before imposing emergency measures is ensuring the unrestricted and smooth flow of goods. 

We will wake up to a totally different world once the pandemic is over. More countries will likely want to move the needle away from globalisation and mutual dependency to avoid the spread of new viruses in the future. Though trade cannot halt the pandemic, it can help us get through it by ensuring that essentials make it to us thus mitigating some of its consequences. At all times, we need more trade, not less.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

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

No crisis unused: Eurocare argues for a ban on alcohol sponsorship in sports

While the world is battling the Coronavirus crisis, the European Alcohol Policy Alliance (EUROCARE) is facing a different goliath: alcohol sponsorship… in sports? A head-scratcher of sorts, especially given that the sports industry will fall on hard times this year if COVID-19 drags on. With cancelled events and games, cutting the sports industry off from vital sponsorship income is cruel at best.

In the press release from EUROCARE, the group says:

“Millions of people – including children and young people – are exposed to alcohol sponsorship. The evidence is clear that alcohol marketing exposure is a cause of binge drinking and drinking onset among young people. It also influences their attitudes and increases their likelihood of developing problems with alcohol later in life.”

Naturally, these activists are not referring to specific evidence that points to this phenomenon. With children at a young age picking up smoking, including cannabis – both not advertised in any way – points to the conclusion that sponsorship is hardly the origin of substance abuse.

In fact, when we look at this problem we quickly figure out that it is not sponsorship in sports, or sponsorship altogether that is the problem for these groups, but alcohol in itself. They are the new prohibitionists, unable to halt until they have banned every last drop of fun. 

Ultimately, what sponsorship cannot be seen by children? Be it public advertisement in public transport or bus stops, or any TV channel or radio show: children can technically hear and see all advertising that adults have access to. The channels that are children-only already don’t feature these ads, and online portals such as YouTube allow for parental control that blocks all age-inappropriate pop-ups.

We should also stress that it should first and foremost be the obligations of parents to protect their children from harm, by educating them about appropriate and safe alcohol use. Delegating this responsibility to government agencies will culminate in an avalanche of bureaucracy that is not in the interest of consumer choice.

Banning ads in the name of protecting children is a backdoor to blatant bans on advertising for products altogether. Other vices are also at risk, as the press release also reveals:

“This research comes at a time when the place of gambling in sport has been called into question and we need to consider the propriety of linking any addictive and health-harming product with sport.”

The reality is this: consumers want products, and they want to enjoy vices such as alcohol. We should aim for responsible and educated consumers, as opposed to blatant patronising bans. Substance abuse is a real problem, yet we need to recognise that there are underlying problems that explain it, going beyond mere sponsorship. 

Whether or not alcohol is advertised has no impact on unemployment or any other personal hardship that leads to excesses in alcohol use. These problems need solving through different educational and social institutions, and most importantly through improved personal relationships. We as a society have responsibility to our friends and family, more than any governmental institution may proclaim to own.

Advertising plays an important role for consumers: it informs them about new and better products and allows for competition. Advertising is the extended arm of consumer choice, and ought to be protected.

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