Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Update on plain packaging for tobacco

In the UK, cigarettes are sold only in plain packaging with prominent health warnings, part of a years-long public health initiative to reduce illness and deaths from smoking. Above, an example of what this legally-required standardised packaging looks like, with space for the brand name on the lower one-third of the green band.

Advertising of tobacco products on UK billboards was banned long ago, even as ad campaigns have been launched to encourage current smokers to quit and discourage young people from even trying cigarettes. Now other countries are considering whether to force tobacco marketers to switch to plain packaging.

Meanwhile, marketers of popular brands like Winston and Drum have had to look beyond packaging and advertising to sell cigarettes. Imperial, which owns Winston and Drum, says it continues to be successful in Australia, for instance, where plain packaging has been the law for five years. Imperial's chief executive explains that 'commercially, we’re very capable in terms of operating in plain-packaging markets'.

Public health activists are discussing whether illness and deaths would be reduced by requiring other products--particularly alcoholic beverages--to be marketed in plain packaging. Alcohol brands object. Already, the industry has agreed to carry voluntary warnings on alcohol packaging. Will plain packaging eventually be required for alcohol? Unlikely right now, not until the short- and long-term impact of selling cigarettes in plain packaging has been assessed.