The case for plain packaging of cigarettes
The Tobacco industry claim that there is no evidence that putting tobacco products into plain packaging will stop young people from taking up smoking, but evidence consistently shows that plain packaging would be an effective deterrent.
The plain packaging of tobacco means that all tobacco products will be required to look the same. At the moment the design and packaging of cigarettes remains the only form of advertising available to the manufacturer.
Yet ‘Plain Packaging’ is not the whole story: all brand names would have to be written in a standard typeface, colour and size. And all other trademarks, logos, colour schemes and graphics would be banned. However the packs would not be featureless: If plain packaging were to be introduced, the health warnings such as “Smoking causes cancer” and the graphic images could be increased from 30% to 75% of the pack front, making it appear more like a health warning flyer than a box of cigarettes.
The warnings on current packs have become so common place that our eyes fail to take them in, and look instead to the shiny packaging, the designer fonts, and the use of multi colours. As well as making the packs look attractive, they are also said to be misleading. Do certain colour schemes make it appear one type of cigarette is stronger than another, or healthier than another, such as a gold pack stood alongside a silver one? Some cigarettes are packaged up to look like sweets with pastel colours on their flip-top lid (like a box of chocolates) and with all the cigarettes different colours, as one observer commented “Its like a crayon you smoke”.
Only 0.5% of 11 year olds are regular smokers, yet the figure jumps to 15% for 15 year olds, so clearly they are attracted in their early teens with approximately 450 young people starting smoking in England every day. Overall 80% of all smokers start smoking in their teens and are less likely to quit than those who start smoking later in life, they are also likely to smoke more heavily than those who start as adults.
The tobacco industry response to any move to regulate their activity is to try and gain support from other regulated industries, such as alcohol, saying that their products will be next.
But tobacco isn’t like other products. A customer using the product exactly as the manufacturer intends, will very likely die as a result. It is the only freely-available legal product for which this is the case, and it kills one in two of its long-term users.
Tobacco industry lobbyists claim that plain packaging will make no difference, but they also claim exactly the opposite, that plain packaging will ruin local retailers. Trying to stand on both sides of the argument, effectively saying “Don’t make cigarettes plain, it will make no difference to sales so what is the point? Oh…But please don’t as shops will suffer if you do”
The deterrent effect of plain packaging means that tobacco sales should decline gradually, but not immediately, with the main effect being to reduce the number of young people becoming new smokers. Legal, adult smokers who wish to smoke will still be able to purchase cigarettes – they will not be banned, just less attractive and less noticeable.
If you agree that cigarette packaging should be plain, show your support at www.smokefreelincs.co.uk and sign up to plain packs protect.
Young Persons Tobacco Control Specialist