Giant step forward for tobacco control as Australia announces plans to ban branding from tobacco packs

Wednesday 28 April 2010

A requirement to sell tobacco products in plain packaging is set to become law in Australia. This is a major advance in tobacco control as it will stop the industry misleading smokers. The Australian law could pave the way for similar bans in other countries including the UK. [1]

Martin Dockrell, Director of Policy and Research said:

“There is no regulation the tobacco companies fear more than plain packs. Packaging is their main form of advertising in mature markets like the UK and they invest in it very heavily because it allows them to create brand loyalty and target particular groups such as young people and women.

“For the industry the beauty is that people don’t even see it as advertising. Conventional advertising has the producer saying “people like you should smoke brand x” but with packaging it is the customer who says to their friends and family “people like us smoke this brand”.

“Our research with smokers and young people has shown that companies can also use the pack to communicate misleading and illegal messages suggesting that one product is safer or less addictive than another. “ [2]

Only one other country has tried seriously to introduce plain packaging. That was Canada and in 1993 the big tobacco company companies came together to make sure that no such law would appear in any country however small. So far they have been successful including in the UK. Two years ago Health Secretary Alan Johnson consulted on introducing plain packs for tobacco products in the UK and the tobacco industry did all they could to make sure the measure never reached the statute books. They know once one country succeeds many more will follow. [3]

Notes and links:

[1] – Cigarettes to cost more, lose logos in health crackdown, the Courier Mail
– Government to demand no frills cigarette packets, ABC News
[2] Hammond D, Dockrell M, Arnott D, Lee A, Anderson S, McNeill A. The impact of cigarette
pack design on perceptions of risk among UK adult and youth: evidence in support of plain
packaging regulations. EJPH, 2009. doi:10.1093/eurpub/ckp122
[3] Consultation on the future of tobacco control. Department of Health, 2008.