Study shows Plain Packaging would cut smoking rates

Thursday, 24 January 2013  at 11:41

A study posted online this morning shows that experts believe smoking would be reduced by the introduction of plain, standardised packaging of tobacco products.  The study by the University of Cambridge was published on the News Medical website examined the likely impact on smoking rates in adults and children.

Experts believe that plain packaging of tobacco products would cut smoking, a new study has found.

Tobacco control experts from around the world estimate that two years after the introduction of generic packaging the number of adult smokers would be reduced by one percentage point (in the UK - from 21 to 20%), and the percentage of children trying smoking would be reduced by three percentage points (in the UK - from 27 to 24%). The Cambridge research was published today in the journal BMC Public Health.

Because Australia, the first country to implement plain packaging, only did so in December of last year there is no quantifiable evidence as of yet. Therefore, scientists have used the next best option, the expertise of internationally-renowned tobacco control specialists from around the world.

For the study, 33 tobacco control experts from the UK (14), Australasia (12) and North America (7) were recruited. Professionals in these regions were targeted because these countries are currently considering (or have recently implemented) plain packaging for tobacco products. They were then interviewed about how plain packaging - packaging without brand imagery or promotional text and using standardised formatting - might impact the rates of smoking in adults and children.

The experts estimated that plain packaging would reduce the number of adult smokers by one percentage point (on average) two years after the introduction of plain packaging.

Professor Theresa Marteau, Director of the University of Cambridge's Behaviour and Health Research Unit, who led the study, said: "Currently, approximately 10 million adults in Britain smoke. A one percentage point decline - from 21% of the population to 20% - would equate to 500,000 people who will not suffer the health effects of smoking."

More impressively, they believe that generic packaging would reduce the percentage of children trying smoking by three percentage points (on average) two years after plain packaging is introduced.

Dr Rachel Pechey, first author of the study from the University of Cambridge's Behaviour and Health Research Unit, said: "Given that the majority of smokers first try smoking in adolescence, the impact on children is of particular importance. Nicotine dependence develops rapidly after lighting up for the first time, even before the user is smoking once a week."

To read the whole piece, click here.


Tobacco workers urged to lobby on packaging

Thursday, 17 January 2013  at 16:38

Tobacco company bosses have "encouraged" their workers to take a stand on plain packaging, writes Ben Heather of www.stuff.co.nz.

Submissions to the Government's tobacco plain packaging proposal released under the Official Information Act show 16 Imperial Tobacco employees registered their opposition.
They are part of a large international opposition to the proposal, which includes hints at legal action by New Zealand's three biggest tobacco companies.

The employees - who all asked the Health Ministry not to disclose their names - argued plain packaging would boost black market tobacco and not reduce smoking.

Imperial Tobacco confirmed in a statement that it had encouraged employees to have their say.
"We have . . . kept employees informed of developments and encouraged them to make a submission during the consultation."
None of the workers who submitted to the proposal supported plain packaging.

Action on Smoking and Health New Zealand spokesman Michael Colhoun said the level of opposition was not surprising and was a sort of backhand vote of confidence. "It's called a scream test," he said. "When the [tobacco] industry kicks up a fuss, it generally shows that it will be an effective measure in reducing smoking."

Despite the opposition, Mr Colhoun said he was confident plain packaging would become a reality. "It got through in Australia."

Plain packaging laws came into force in Australia last month after an unsuccessful legal challenge from Japan Tobacco International SA and British American Tobacco Australasia.

For the whole story, click here.

Australian cigarette packets nominated for design award

Wednesday, 16 January 2013  at 09:08

The New Zealand Herald broke the news....

Australia's plain-packaging tobacco law has earned the federal government a nomination in a prestigious international design award.

London's Design Museum announced its contenders for the annual Designs of the Year on Monday, pitting the bland olive cigarette packets from Down Under against contemporary and costly creations from around the globe.

In the graphics category, Australian cigarette packaging commissioned by the Department for Health and Ageing is lauded for its "anti-design".

"Based on consumer studies, the anti-design features a hard-hitting anti-smoking image, with plain text and unappealing colours," reads a blurb on the museum's website about the ciggie packs.
Nominees were chosen by a "distinguished" panel across the areas of architecture, digital, fashion, furniture, graphics, product and transport.

The Australian-made London Games cauldron featured in the product category.
Designed by Heatherwick Studio, the 16-tonne cauldron wowed a global audience as it unfurled like a flower at the Olympic opening ceremony in July last year.

Constructing the cauldron, comprising 204 individual copper petals, was an "extremely complex" task, according to Constantino Manias from the South Australian manufacturer, FCT Flames.

Other nominations include the Windows Phone 8, western Europe's new tallest building The Shard, and a Louis Vuitton collection.

The museum aims to showcase the nominations during an exhibition which opens in March.
Winners from each category, along with an overall winner, will be announced in April.

To read the piece, click here

"Our bold approach to plain packaging inspiring others"

Monday, 14 January 2013  at 17:26

The University of Melbourne have today launched a new book to mark the full implementation of Australia’s world-first plain tobacco packaging legislation. 

The book tittled, Public Health and Plain Packaging of Cigarettes: Legal Issues (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2012) offers an,

"in-depth analysis of the domestic and international legal issues surrounding plain tobacco packaging".

 The piece continues:

What are some of the key issues and debates highlighted in this book?

The book provides a discussion of the legal implications of plain tobacco packaging in its historical and social context, including the development of tobacco control measures in Australia. It also considers the lawfulness of plain packaging under Australian Constitutional Law and international trade and investment law. The High Court of Australia (Australia’s highest court) has rejected a constitutional challenge to the legislation, and the trade and investment issues are being examined in ongoing disputes in the World Trade Organization and pursuant to the Hong Kong-Australia Bilateral Investment Treaty. The book also examines related international cases such as the investment dispute between Philip Morris and Uruguay and how plain packaging would fare in the EU legal framework.

Could Australia’s plain packaging legislation be seen as a precedent for other countries?

Other countries considering legislation of this kind include New Zealand and the UK. They have both held public consultations, and it looks like New Zealand will be the next country to adopt plain packaging.
The circumstances for each country are going to depend on whether that country has a constitution and the scope of constitutional protections. For example, other constitutions might have similar provisions to Australia in relation to acquisition of property, but some constitutions would also have stronger provisions regarding freedom of commercial speech or protection of public health. 

The Australian government’s win in the High Court has set an important precedent for other countries, increasing the likelihood that other countries will follow suit. The outcome of the trade and investment disputes (which I predict the Australian government will win) will have an even bigger impact on the rest of the world, and that is what the tobacco industry is most concerned about. 

Why did tobacco companies fail in the High Court case against the Australian Federal Government?

That case concerned a claim by tobacco companies that plain packaging amounts to an acquisition of property on other than just terms (that is, without compensation). A six to one majority of the Court held that an acquisition arises only where the government or another obtains a proprietary benefit as a result of the measure. Although plain packaging contributes to the government’s health objectives, that benefit is not proprietary and therefore plain packaging does not effect an acquisition of property.

For more on the story, click here



Trading Standards' Richard Ferry response on plain packaging

  at 11:51

Here is an interesting piece in the UK's The Northern Echo titled 'Plain tobacco packaging is a sensible policy'. Richard Ferry from the North-East Trading Standards Association looks to affirm what is meant by 'plain packs' and also raises questions over illegal tobacco, as he states:
"There is no evidence that plain, standardised packaging would result in a rise in illegal tobacco sales"
The article reads:

"On behalf of the North-East Trading Standards Association, I’d like to respond to concerns expressed by packaging industry spokesman Mike Ridgway about the standardised packaging of cigarettes (HAS, Dec 17).

Standardised cigarette packs will not be plain at all and would still carry all the sophisticated security devices to allow enforcement teams to tell legal tobacco from fake and illicit.

The type of new standardised packs introduced in Australia on December 1 still have designs and colours – they just aren’t the alluring, brightly coloured brands and logos that tobacco companies use to attract new smokers.

There is no evidence that plain, standardised packaging would result in a rise in illegal tobacco sales.

The new packaging includes colour pictures, text warnings and other labelling that are no easier to counterfeit than the brands currently available on shop shelves.

Trading Standards teams are experienced in identifying counterfeit products and the use of technology is our best line of defence.

Increasingly, the threat is not counterfeits, but from brands that are manufactured openly and legally in Russia and distributed illegally to countries all over Europe."

To read the full story, click here

stickers to foil government's plain, standardised packaging

Thursday, 10 January 2013  at 15:03

Gillian West in the marketing and media online magazine, The Drum reports on the story....

On the one side, Australian company Box Wraps (who produce stickers to cover the plain, standardised packs' health warning and images) argue, “It’s your box, it’s your choice” and on the other, the UK's Action on Smoking and Health note that “Plain Packaging is more about protecting children and making cigarettes less attractive, than making smokers quit.”

Australian company launches stickers to foil government's plain packaging initiative sparking UK debate 

Queensland-based business, Box Wraps, has taken a stance against the Australian government’s decision to force tobacco companies into selling their products in plain, standardised packaging by launching a range of purpose-built stickers to wrap around cigarette packets.

Marketed under the slogan “It’s your box, it’s your choice”, Box Wraps come in four sizes with 30 different designs to choose from. The stickers cover the pack, obscuring the images of dying cancer patients, diseased body parts, and health warnings now customary on cigarette packaging.

Speaking to the Australian press, Box Wraps general manager, Anthony Do Rozario, said: “I've got a lot of friends who are smokers and they all hate the plain packaging. People feel they have had their choice ripped off them.”

Box Wraps has registered a worldwide patent for the stickers with plans afoot to introduce plain packaging in the UK as well as other countries. Do Rozario has confirmed email interest from UK smokers should Britain decide to introduce plain packaging and the company has already registered the worldwide patent for the stickers, with pro-smoking lobby Forest (Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco) already backing the product.

Speaking to The Drum, Angela Harbutt, head of campaign at Hands of Our Packs, who are campaigning against the introduction of plain packaging in the UK, explained that it came as “no surprise to us stickers, sheaths, 'skins' and good old fashioned cigarette cases are flooding the market as a response to the Australian government enforcing the display of revolting images on cigarette packs”.

Harbutt added: “Such an extreme action from government was always going to result in an extreme reaction from the public. It is consumer demand driving these new product innovations in Australia and it's interesting to note that UK consumer interest in these new products is already very high indeed.

“An exploding market in sexy cigarette covers is yet another unintended consequence of plain packaging. The Australian government can spin this as 'plain' packaging being successful. But the opposite is true. How can a measure that creates a whole new market in cigarette covers as aspirational fashion accessories, sporting no health advice whatsoever, be considered successful?”

The Australian Medical Association has urged the federal government to step in and ban the stickers, Steve Hambleton, president of the AMA commented: “I would be confident that the government would response very quickly to stop this defeating the intention of their legislation.

“The AMA certainly takes a dim view of this... and we support rapid responses to any attempt to undermine the plain packaging legislation.”

Here in the UK, Amanda Sandford, research manager for Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), told The Drum that Box Wraps were merely “trying to capitalise on the fact that people are shocked by these images [health warnings].”

Sandford continued that she doubted they would “make much difference really in the long run,” as when picture warnings first appeared here in the UK “one or two companies tried to sell sleeves or you know covers for the pack and it didn’t take off, at the end of the day if they [smokers] want cigarettes they will go and buy them anyway.”

“Plain Packaging is more about protecting children and making cigarettes less attractive, than making smokers quit.”

For the complete story, click here

Simon Chapman: tobacco lobby loses its puff

Wednesday, 9 January 2013  at 09:46

Over a month since the new Australian Plain Packaging laws came into affect Simon Chapman looks at what effects they are having. Featuring in The Age, Chapman, professor of public health at the University of Sydney writes:

Whiff of desperation as tobacco lobby loses its puff over packaging 


Australia's historic plain packaging became law on December 1, with the quinella seeing us graduate to also have the world's largest graphic health warnings. Sixty-four nations have now made the unforgettable pictures law and six (New Zealand, Britain, France, Norway, Turkey and India) are already showing strong interest in following our lead on plain packs.

The bad news about smoking and disease trickled in from the first decades of last century. With three major studies on smoking and lung cancer published in the early 1950s, in 1957, Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council wrote to the minister for health urging that the government should "warn non-smokers against acquiring the habit of smoking". But in the face of industry opposition, it would take another 16 years before the first timid warning appeared in tiny lettering at the base of Australian packs. Since then, there have been four further generations of warnings, culminating with plain packaging in 2012.

The tobacco industry strongly resisted all of these. A British American Tobacco official wrote to the German branch office in 1978: "Obviously the group policy should be to avoid health warnings on all tobacco products for just as long as we can." The industry threw everything it could at plain packaging: millions of dollars in hysterical TV advertising, a forlorn High Court challenge that was supported by just one of the seven judges, a conga-line of political threats from obscure US trade groups. The slippery slope metaphor was given its biggest ever workout: life as we know it would surely soon collapse entirely into dreary North Korean conformity as anything posing even the smallest risk would be treated the same as tobacco.

I'd seen all the pack prototypes and research that showed which warnings generated most concern in smokers. But nothing prepared me for how bad the real things actually look. No other consumer product in history has ever been packaged like this, underscoring the exceptional status of tobacco as a killer product. Early signs are promising. Stories are pouring in about negative reaction by smokers. A colleague's hairdresser told her she was quitting as she was too ashamed to be seen with the packs. A West Australian tobacconist estimated that a quarter of his customers were remarking that their usual cigarette now tasted worse in the new packs. Marketing gurus have been writing about how predictable this effect is.

To read the full story, click here

... Tobacco Packet Covers

Tuesday, 8 January 2013  at 12:20

Legal experts are refusing to comment on whether Australia’s largest tobacco franchise is violating state laws by offering customers free covers designed to hide the graphic images on cigarette packs.

Tobacco Station Group stores are giving away covers that feature the company’s logo and web address to customers who buy tobacco products. The franchise has more than 300 stores in states and territories across Australia, including Victoria, WA and the ACT.

Under Victoria’s Tobacco Act 1987, WA’s Tobacco Products Control Act 2006 and the ACT’s Tobacco Act 1927, a retailer must not supply a gift or prize in connection with the sale of a tobacco product.

The Department of Health and Ageing is reportedly investigating whether Tobacco Station Group’s covers violate federal tobacco laws. Health Minister Tanya Plibersek revealed in a statement that the Tobacco Plain Packaging (TPP) Act, which came into force on 1 December, had so far led to 15 complaints, all made against retailers.

“The Department of Health and Ageing is investigating the complaints and has found some to be unsubstantiated. Where evidence suggested non-compliance, warnings were issued and educational material about the legislation was made available,” she said.

To read the whole story, click here.

Plain packaging 'working', Australian government says

Thursday, 3 January 2013  at 15:50

World News Australia have reported today that: "Plain packaging 'working', government say."

The federal government says there are early signs that plain packaging is already having an impact on the number of people trying to give up smoking.

The government says it will continue cracking down on cigarette retailers who aren't complying with the new plain packaging rules.

The health minister says there are early signs that plain packaging is already having an impact on the number of people trying to give up the deadly habit.

To view the news story, click here

Cigarette cover-up under investigation

  at 11:44

Australia's largest tobacco franchise could be in breach of state tobacco laws

Rachel Wells of The Sydney Morning Herald wrote today:

Australia's largest tobacco franchise could be in breach of state tobacco laws by giving away free cardboard covers designed to cover the graphic imagery on plain cigarette packs.

The Tobacco Station Group, with more than 300 stores nationally, is offering covers which feature the company's logo and website address free of charge to customers who purchase tobacco products in their outlets.

The federal Department of Health and Ageing is launching an investigation to see if the products breach federal tobacco laws and has advised its state and territory counterparts to do the same.

Under NSW's Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2008, tobacco retailers are not permitted to provide gifts or other benefits to people who buy tobacco or non-tobacco smoking products.

"State and territories have enacted legislation prohibiting promotional schemes for tobacco products, that is, offering gifts, prizes . . . in association with the sale of tobacco products. It is therefore a matter for consideration by states and territories," a spokeswoman for the federal department said.

The Tobacco Station Group has confirmed the covers are available at all TSG outlets and were designed to "enable customers to express their identity with their cigarette packs".

"TSG are of the opinion that the cases comply with the new Australian plain packaging legislation," a spokeswoman said.

It is not the first time the federal government has investigated a product designed to hide the shocking, graphic health warnings on plain packs, which are three times larger than the previous images.

In December, a Gold Coast sticker manufacturing company launched a range of custom stickers that wrap around cigarette packs. The Box Wrap stickers with the marketing slogan, "It's your box, it's your choice," feature a range of images including the Australian flag and scantily-clad men and women.

In this instance, the department found the company was not in breach of federal tobacco laws.

EU crackdown on tobacco stops short of plain packets

Wednesday, 2 January 2013  at 10:15

AFP writes:

WITH menthol cigarettes to be banned and cigarette packs sold with repulsive images of rotting lungs, the EU released new anti-tobacco proposals yesterday, the first in more than a decade.

But the proposals fall short of demands by many health campaigners for a total ban on company branding and logos on packets, along the lines of the plain packaging enforced this month in Australia.

"Tobacco kills half of its users and is highly addictive," said EU Health Commissioner Tonio Borg, himself a former smoker. "We're not forbidding smoking; we're aiming to make it less attractive.

Almost 700,000 Europeans die from tobacco-related illnesses each year, equal to the population of Frankfurt or Palermo, and Mr Borg hopes to cut the bloc's 27 per cent of smokers by two percentage points in five years.

With the habit most often acquired before the age of 25, the proposed legislation particularly targets the young - hence a ban on flavoured cigarettes, roll-your-own, or smokeless tobacco products.

"Tobacco products should look and taste like tobacco products," said Mr Borg, adding that flavours such as menthol, chocolate or vanilla were often popular with young people.

"This proposal ensures that attractive packaging and flavourings are not used as a marketing strategy."

On packaging, images of camels along with other well-known cigarette logos will be gone in three to four years, the time it will take the 27 EU states and the European parliament to approve the package of new rules.

They will notably force tobacco companies to cover 75 per cent of packets back and front with graphic health warnings and gruesome pictures of diseased body parts.
The size of packs will be standardised and boxes of 10 banned "to ensure the full visibility of pictorial warnings".

Should Australia win an appeal now at the World Trade Organisation against its plain packets, "it will open the way for others to follow suit", Mr Borg said. The proposals state that "member states remain free to introduce plain packaging in duly justified cases".

The European Public Health Alliance, a network of groups, welcomed the proposal but regretted that "it fails to propose mandatory plain packaging", which is seen as a key to prevent youngsters from lighting up their first cigarette.

The group also asked whether this was "the beginning of the end of tobacco-industry led policy-making".
This referred to a scandal over the EU's Tobacco Products Directive just a few weeks ago that involved a shady Maltese lobbyist, Sweden's substitute for snuff, and robberies against anti-smoking groups.

Mr Borg's predecessor John Dalli was forced to resign after the EU fraud office OLAF said a Maltese entrepreneur used his contacts with the commissioner to seek a bribe from a Swedish firm in return for changes to the tobacco legislation, "in particular on the EU export ban on snus".

Snus, or Swedish snuff, is a moist powder tobacco originating from dry snuff. Though its sale is illegal across the EU, it is manufactured and chewed in Sweden, which has an exemption.

Mr Borg's new proposals maintain the ban on snus as well as Sweden's exemption.

They also ban "slims" and state that electronic cigarettes, which contain some nicotine, will only be authorised as medicinal products.

Pipes and cigars however were largely left out of the loop.

"They are on the decline and don't attract youths," Mr Borg said.

* 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