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Cancer Research UK and plain packs

Monday, 30 April 2012  at 12:31

We have been working closely with Cancer Research UK since well before the launch of the campaign and they have been fantastic partners on plain packaging evidence and generating support for the plain packaging of cigarettes and other tobacco products.

Last week they released a powerful report and video showing children's attitudes to packaging:


As children handle and see cigarette packets their words resonate with everyone who believes that plain packs will help protect them from a lifetime of addiction and reduce the number of kids smoking. The report that was issued alongside the video is a particularly good resource for the case for plain packs. The evidence is there to be considered especially the comments from children on pack design.

From the report, looking at pack shape:

Participants had very positive responses to slimmer, more feminine oriented packs. Initially, there was both curiosity and uncertainty as to exactly what or how many cigarettes these packs contained. Some participants thought they contained filter tips, while others thought they must hold only four or five cigarettes.

The Silk Cut Superslims pack was repeatedly referred to as looking like perfume or makeup, and the Vogue pack, like chocolate. That these packs did not resemble a standard cigarette pack generated interest among participants, particularly the girls.

'They don’t look like cigarette packets. It’s unusual and you’d want to buy it to see what it’s like inside
(GIRLS, ABC1)

'Because they look like other things, you want to look at them to see what they actually are.'
(GIRL, C2DE)

The packs were repeatedly described as unusual and different to standard packs, something viewed positively by participants. One explanation for this may be that participants’ smoking attitudes were generally negative (see section 4.3.8.1) and these more unusual packs shed some of the negative associations of smoking.

Of particular appeal was the difference in shape, but many participants were also drawn to the colours of these packs. In terms of gender, the packs were consistently rated as ‘appealing’ by all but one group. However, while this group of boys didn’t identify with the pack, they still considered these packs to be attractive and stylish. Similarly, a further two boy groups didn’t think these packs were for them or said they wouldn’t like to be seen with them, but in all other aspects the packs were rated positively by the boys despite being of a more feminine design.

'They’re not really cool to have, but they look quite nice.'
(BOY, C2DE)

'They are quite nicely packaged I guess. They look different. They don’t look normal.'
(BOY, ABC1)

Generally liked by all, these packs were commonly described as ‘cool’ but also ‘cute’ (GIRL, ABC1) ‘compact’ (BOY, ABC1) and ‘skinny’ (GIRL, C2DE). They were perceived to contain less tobacco, resulting in lower harm perceptions. Overall, the user imagery of the superslims packs was positive, relating to a slim, attractive and classy female. Of particular benefit to participants, the packs’ slimness gave added convenience, being easy to carry around in a pocket or bag.

That these packs were smaller and didn’t immediately resemble cigarettes also gave an element of discretion. That these packs could aid hiding smoking from others was seen as an advantage.

'They’d be easy to hide.'
(GIRL, C2DE)

'It’s dead thin and easy to carry about and doesn’t stand out in your pocket'
(BOY, C2DE)

'...if you were smoking and you were trying to like hide it from your mum and dad and that like fell out your pocket or something it wouldn’t be cigarettes'
(GIRL, C2DE)

Have a read of the report and see what you think. If you believe, like we do, that we should close the loop on the last form of tobacco advertising then sign up to show your support and share further.

New Zealand pushes for plain packs

Tuesday, 24 April 2012  at 09:23

In the last week we have seen New Zealand agree in principle to bring in plain packaging for all tobacco products. As with us here in the UK there will be a public consultation on the issue but it is interesting to see more countries including Canada, France, Belgium and Iceland joining the momentum for a change to protect children from this form of tobacco advertising. 

New Zealand's Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia said:

"Smoking is the single biggest cause of preventable death and disease in New Zealand and we must be prepared to take bold steps towards achieving our goal,"

"We have banned the open display of cigarette and tobacco packs in all dairies and other shops with effect from July 23 this year. Plain packaging is the next step to ensure that once they are in the hands and homes of smokers, the packs don't promote anything other than our serious health warnings and quit messages."

More developments in Australia on plain packs

  at 09:13

The fascinating process of plain packs becoming law in Australia was in the high court last week as the supreme court judges evaluated the tobacco industry's claims against this important public health issue revolving around smoking and kids. The final judgement is expected later this year but this article by Matthew Rimmer, ARC Future Fellow and Associate Professor in Intellectual Property at Australian National University is well worth a read:


Tobacco, says the World Health Organisation (WHO), is “the only legal consumer product that kills when used exactly as intended by the manufacturer.”
Supporting the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the Australian Parliament has passed The Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011 (Cth). The legislation was supported by all the major parties.
Labor Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, argued, “Plain packaging means that the glamour is gone from smoking and cigarettes are now exposed for what they are: killer products that destroy thousands of Australian families.”
The leader of the Coalition Opposition, Tony Abbott, acknowledged: “This is an important health measure. It’s important to get smoking rates down further.” The Greens also supported the measure – and called for the Future Fund to end its tobacco investments.
In response, Japan Tobacco International and British American Tobacco brought legal action against the government in the High Court of Australia, claiming that the Act amounts to an acquisition of property on less than just terms under the Australian Constitution. Phillip Morris Ltd and Imperial Tobacco joined the case, and supported their fellow tobacco companies.
In its defence, the Commonwealth was supported by the governments of the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory, and Queensland. The Cancer Council Australiamade written submissions, but was not given leave to intervene.
The High Court of Australia heard arguments over three days from the April 17 to 19, 2012. The various parties enlisted battalions of lawyers, the proceedings received intense media attention, and the public galleries were packed. Here’s how it went.
Big Tobacco’s arguments
Tobacco companies struggled with their argument that the introduction of the plain packaging of tobacco products amounted to an acquisition of property on less than just terms.
There was much discussion as to whether the Commonwealth had indeed effected an “acquisition” of the tobacco trade marks. Japan Tobacco International’s barrister argued, “The Commonwealth law by its terms abrogates the power to substitute any message the Commonwealth chooses on what we say is our billboard.”
The tobacco companies argued for a broad view of property under the Australian Constitution, and claimed to hold various forms of intellectual property in relation to tobacco packaging, including trade marks, patents, designs, copyright and passing-off.
Their barristers said the intellectual property rights of tobacco companies had been extinguished, or at least severely impaired. One said, “On our analysis, everything has been taken.”
There was much debate about the semiotics of tobacco packaging and clear festishization of the tobacco pack. The judges were invited to closely inspect the packaging of tobacco products. And there was a discussion of the use of words, colours, emblems, badges, and logos – with references to examples such as Camel cigarettes.
But the judges questioned the analogies drawn between property cases, dealing with land, and intellectual property cases on the acquisition of property. Justice Gummow asked, “Are any of these cases about intangibles? A lot of the American cases are about land, are they not?” It was surprising that there was relatively little discussion about past Australian precedents on intellectual property and constitutional law, such as the Grain Pool case, theBlank Tapes case, the Nintendo case, and the recent Phonographic ruling.
Tobacco companies wanted to draw a distinction between graphic health warnings and “excessive regulation” (plain packaging). Justice Kiefel responded, “The degree of regulation may be extremely restrictive and yet there be no acquisition.”
British American Tobacco argued tobacco companies should receive compensation for public health advertisements. “The fact that it is an improving message or a good message may be socially desirable and if it is then the Commonwealth should pay for it,” they argued.
As a witness to the proceedings and an expert in intellectual property, the arguments of the tobacco companies about acquisition of property often seemed synthetic and unreal to me.
The Commonwealth
The Commonwealth government mounted a strong defence of the legality and constitutionality of the plain packaging of tobacco products. Their submissions explained the measures were “directed to informing, redressing and reducing harm to the public health that is caused by use of the tobacco products.”
The solicitor-general for the Commonwealth, Stephen Gageler, argued the law was “no different in principle from any other specification of a product standard or an information standard for products or, indeed, services that are to become the subject of trade in the future.”
He observed, “The product information required to be placed on these products differs only in intensity from product information that is routinely mandated to accompany therapeutic goods, industrial chemicals, poisons and other products injurious to the public health”. He commented, “The mandatory graphic health warnings are the skull and crossbones for a digital age, nothing more.”
The Solicitor-General said that “to suggest that the tobacco packages become little billboards for government advertising is wrong.” He denied the government was engaged in advertising, or derived any such benefit, and contended that a regulatory norm of conduct was not an acquisition of property.
The government stressed the sale and packaging of cigarettes had long been regulated in Australia, and that plain packaging was but the latest step in this process.
The solicitor-general argued the statutory rights of intellectual property are often varied and modified, adding a trademark “must at least be subject to a subsequent prohibition on use to prevent harm to the public or to public health”. Indeed, Article 8 of the TRIPS Agreement 1994 recognises that “members may, in formulating or amending their laws and regulations, adopt measures necessary to protect public health and nutrition”.
Solicitor-general also argued that the concept of just terms raised larger questions of fairness and justice under the constitution.
The Commonwealth maintained that it would be incongruous to compensate Big Tobacco, “For the Australian nation representing the Australian community to be required to compensate tobacco companies for the loss resulting from no longer being able to continue in the harmful use of their property goes beyond the requirements of any reasonable notion of fairness.”
Sideshows: margarine, boxes and Ratsak
Notwithstanding its serious subject matter, the case also had its colourful moments.
An amusing esoteric sideshow in the case was the fierce battle between junior lawyers over legal history relevant to the case. There was discussion of the Margarine Act of 1887 (United Kingdom), which required the plain packaging of margarine and margarine-cheese. But there were no reports of 19th century margarine and margarine-cheese makers ever ran litigation over plain packaging.
There has been much debate about absurd patent applications of late. And in this case, British American Tobacco revealed that it has filed patent applications for packages for tobacco products. Here’s the WIPO version of British American Tobacco’s suspect patent application for a “soft cup package for tobacco products”.
What is novel, inventive or useful about a soft cup package for tobacco products? Patent law should be encouraging the progress of science and the useful arts – treatments and therapies for cancer, for instance – rather than cigarette boxes.
Another oddity was the frequent comparisons between warnings on Ratsak poison, and health warnings on tobacco products, which gave the case a peculiar ending. The barrister for Japan Tobacco International invited the seven judges of the High Court of Australia to inspect the labelling on Ratsak, which he had bought at local shops.
A brilliant Australian idea
The High Court of Australia has reserved its decision. A ruling can be expected later in the year.
French CJ signalled that he thought that the matter of tobacco was exceptional. “None of these cases… involve somebody putting into the marketplace a substance which places at risk of serious and fatal disease. We are talking about something in quite a different category, are we not?” he asked.
The case provides the court with an opportunity to contemplate the constitutional role of the Commonwealth in regulating and protection health.
In terms of larger principles, the High Court of Australia can provide guidance on:
  • the difference between acquisition of property and regulation;
  • the relationship between property and intellectual property; and
  • the standard of justice underlying just terms.
It remains to be seen whether the ruling will have larger implications for the labelling of therapeutic goods, food, alcohol, and beverages, such as soft drinks.
What we know for certain is that, far from heralding the end of the fight about plain packaging, this case is merely one battle in an ongoing war for better public health.
But it will certainly have wider international implications. Geoffrey Robertson QChas predicted that, not only will the Commonwealth win the case, but other countries will follow the “brilliant Australian idea”. Both New Zealand and England have initiated public consultation processes, with a view to establishing schemes for the plain packaging of tobacco products.
Meanwhile, other attempts by tobacco companies to thwart this measure will continue. Big Tobacco will no doubt seek to challenge plain packaging in a wide array of arenas. The Ukraine, for instance, is leading a misconceived challenge to Australia’s plain packaging of tobacco products under the TRIPS Agreement 1994. And, there’s a contrived action against Australia’s scheme under an investment treaty between Hong Kong and Australia.
Health activists are also concerned about Big Tobacco’s involvement in the development of free trade agreements, such as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. There are fears that such treaties will include parts aimed at undermining tobacco control measures.

Consultation is now live

Monday, 16 April 2012  at 15:00

The Government today announced that it will conduct a public consultation on putting all tobacco products in plain packs.
Smokefree South West launched a world first campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of tobacco packaging to children and young people which even before this announcement which has already seen over 25,000 people show their support at www.plainpacksprotect.co.uk .
The aim of plain packaging of tobacco products is to reduce the amount children smoke by:
•             Making tobacco packaging look less attractive
•             Increasing the effectiveness of health warnings
•             Preventing the use of misleading and deceptive colours to create false beliefs of different strength and quality
•             Removing the positive association with cigarette brands and image
Evidence suggests that the impact of health warnings are lost on current branded packs and become less noticeable. If plain packaging is introduced in the UK, this will change. The health warnings will become bigger and more eye-catching against a plain background.
Fiona Andrews, Director of Smokefree South West said
‘Smokers start as children and continue as adults. Two thirds of smokers start before they are 18 and the vast majority while still teenagers - these are shocking facts. Big Tobacco knows this only too well and uses packaging to help replace the 100,000 people lost every year to smoking related diseases.
‘Smoking is an epidemic that affects children and moving tobacco products into standardised, plain packaging is designed to protect them and is not about current smokers.
‘Smokefree South West launched a world first campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of tobacco packaging to children and young people. To date over 25,000 people have given their backing at www.plainpacksprotect.co.uk.
‘We have support from parents and grandparents, old and young, men and women, smokers and non-smokers at www.plainpacksprotect.co.uk . People want to see their children lead a full life free from addiction and possible premature death.’
Australia has committed to bringing plain packs into law from December this year and has fought back against Big Tobacco legal challenges
The Australian Minister for Health and Ageing at the time, Nicola Roxon, commented:
‘We know that packaging remains one of the last powerful marketing tools for tobacco companies to recruit new smokers to their deadly products. In the future, cigarette packets will serve only as a stark reminder of the devastating health effects of smoking.
“Big tobacco has made it a habit to challenge Australian Government tobacco controls over the decades…Let there be no mistake, big tobacco is fighting against the Government for one very simple reason—because it knows, as we do, that plain packaging will work. While it is fighting to protect its profits, we are fighting to protect lives.’
Show your support here and tell others.

Infographic live!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012  at 12:15


Ever wanted a snappy, engaging and powerful representation of the journey of the
path from child to childhood smoker and on? Well we have one. You can share,
embed and feature this through your social media feeds, own websites and any other
channel you feel would benefit from it. Click here to see the Kids Smoking Infographic
and help us get the message out there...

The display ban and plain packs

Wednesday, 4 April 2012  at 14:55


This week sees legislation coming into force that will require all supermarkets to place tobacco products out of sight. From 6 April 2012, customers in England will still be able to buy cigarettes in the normal way, but the ban - which was announced in 2008 - will mean cigarettes will have to be kept under the counter.

The Chief Medical Officer for England, Prof Dame Sally Davies, said: ''Ending tobacco displays in shops will protect young people from unsolicited promotions, helping them to resist the temptation to start smoking.
"It will also help and support adults who are trying to quit.''
Smoking kills more than 80,000 people in England every year, the Chief Medical Officer said.
The ban on displaying tobacco products is part of closing the loop on the last allowed forms of tobacco advertising which children are exposed to on a daily basis. Plain packaging of these products is very much designed to work hand in hand with their removal from the point of sale.

The brand a person chooses to smoke becomes part of their identity. Cigarette brands can be ‘badge products’ that serve as social cues to style, status, values and character. The tobacco industry is aware of this relationship:
“... if you smoke, a cigarette pack is one of the few things you use regularly that makes a statement about you. A cigarette pack is the only thing you take out of your pocket 20 times a day and lay out for everyone to see.”

(Speech notes from T.E. Sandefur, President of Brown and Williamson (a subsidiary of British American Tobacco), 1985. Bates no. 52001904/1918. Available at: http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/action/document/page?tid=noi24f00)

These measures are all part of jigsaw that is designed to reduce the 340,000 children who try smoking every year and limit the amount who then go on to have a lifetime of addiction.  By being consistent on banning the promotion of tobacco we can stop its glamorisation and appeal to our young people, show your support
* This number reflects the total amount of people who have signed up to support the plain packaging of tobacco products, via the Plain Packs Protect Partnership (logos below), British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research UK websites.
Supporters Smoke Free South West Ulster Cancer Foundation ash Ash Scotland Ash Wales British Heart Foundation Cancer Research UK Chartered Institute of Environmental Health Cut Films Faculty of Public Health Fresh Smoke Free North East National Heart Forum NCSCT BTS - Stop Smoking Champions The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation Royal College of Physicians TCC Tobacco Free Future Trading Standards Partnership South West Smoke Free Lincs - Promoting a tobacco free life