Today, Australia becomes the first country to legislate the plain and standardised packaging of tobacco products. This means all glossy and eye-catching packaging designs will be removed to protect children from tobacco promotion.
This move represents one of the biggest opportunities in public health since the introduction of Smokefree legislation.
In January 2012, Plain Packs Protect became the first campaign in the northern hemisphere to call for a change to the way tobacco companies market their product. Supported by Cancer Research UK, ASH and the British Heart Foundation among others, the campaign has received over 200,000 expressions of support.
As a Cancer Research report highlighted this year; tobacco packaging is used to promote products, communicate brand values and target specific consumer groups[i]. By removing visual designs and logos from tobacco products, tobacco products will be less attractive, particularly to children[ii].
Every year, a further 340,000 children in the UK[iii] try smoking for the first time. Research shows[iv] that specifically designed, targeted packaging which can include shiny holograms, bright colours and eye-catching images, attract young people to certain brands and help to encourage the next generation of smokers to start.
If the UK adopted a similar legislation as is today in Australia, this is what tobacco products could look like:
Stephen Williams MP and Chair of the All Party Parliament Group on Smoking and Health said: “I am delighted that Australia is leading the way globally in strengthening measures to protect children from tobacco advertising. I very much hope that the UK Government will soon announce that it will lead the way in Europe in also introducing standardised packaging. The tobacco industry has stepped up its campaign against the policy in Britain, but Australia’s actions have proven that they are fighting a losing battle.”
Fiona Andrews, Director of Smokefree South West said: “The Plain Packs Protect campaign has really brought this issue to the fore in the UK and we’re delighted that so many people across the country are supporting the drive to change how tobacco companies promote their products. Most non-smokers have not looked at a cigarette pack in years and when they do many are astonished and horrified by how they now mimic those iconic possessions teenagers love best; IPods and ‘demi-slim’ perfume packets and use fashion house Vogue branding, LEGO look alike bricks and Click technology gimmicks to attract new customers. Is it any surprise that 8 out of 10 smokers start as children and teenagers?
“The bold step that Australia has taken in toning down the attractiveness and appeal of tobacco packaging acts as a model we hope to see the UK embrace and take the lead in the Northern Hemisphere. Surely actively promoting products that kill one in two long term smokers is outdated and should be challenged? We believe from the evidence that introducing standard plain packs could dramatically reduce the recruitment of yet another generation of our young people across the South West taking up a costly and damaging habit.”
Smoking remains the major cause of premature death and disease killing over 100,000 people in the UK each year[v], more than the next six causes of preventable death put together.
[ii] Plain packaging of tobacco products: A review of the evidence. Cancer Council Victoria, 2011
[iii] Impact Assessments for the Health Bill. Department of Health, January 2009 (pp 18)
[v] Written Evidence to the Health Select Committee, Royal College of Physicians 2005