Tobacco companies continuing to make hay while the sun shines

Tuesday, 15 April 2014  at 14:35

  “The coming 14 months are absolutely critical for getting visibility for new products before we go dark [all retailers are banned from displaying tobacco products]. This is why at the end of last month we relaunched and redesigned the packaging…”. Scandinavian Tobacco Group Head of Marketing talking to Wholesale News in Feb 2014.

While we are very much encouraged by the Government response to the Chantler Review, there is still some way to go to make standardised packaging a reality.

The Public Health Minister, Jane Ellison, told Parliament that "Sir Cyril's report makes a compelling case, that if standardised packaging were introduced it would be very likely to have a positive impact on public health and that these health benefits would include health benefits for children."

We understand the Government will shortly publish draft regulations and run a six-week consultation, before bringing final regulations to Parliament with a view to mandating standardised packaging before the next election.

During that consultation process we anticipate strong lobbying by the tobacco industry. Sir Cyril Chantler described tobacco packaging as the industry’s “silent salesman” and they will most certainly want to keep their last branding outlet in place for as long as they can.

Despite the continuing momentum towards standardised packs based on public demand and compelling public health evidence, the tobacco industry continues to invest considerable efforts into innovation and fresh designs in packaging. There is no evidence of a pause while the future of packaging is debated, indeed their approach could be described as making hay while the sun shines.

Since the beginning of 2014, at least 8 brand new products or pack re-designs have been launched. The highly designed packaging, still visible in smaller shops and in the hands of smokers, continues to play a strong role in promoting smoking and advertising tobacco. That’s why so much effort goes into effective and eye-catching design.

The products on offer are also continuing to evolve: ‘Capsule’ cigarettes, which let smokers crush a small pellet in the filter to release a ‘shot’ of menthol flavour, are being marketed at particularly young women. There are also an increasing number of products being marketed as “Additive Free”, with the inference being that this tobacco is not as damaging for smokers.

Showing just how important the still-visible tobacco displays are in smaller shops, the overwhelming majority of packs in the mid-range and economy market segments now carry a brightly coloured price flash to grab the attention of browsing smokers, but inevitably of anyone in the family passing through their local shop.

The tobacco manufacturers and retailers are reporting that price is playing an increasingly major role in smokers’ choices, with brand loyalty becoming weaker as people wrestle with tighter budgets.

In order to attract the most budget-conscious customers, cigarettes are now being sold in packs of 19 instead of 20 to bring the number on the price-flash down, and in ever-decreasing pouch sizes for RYO tobacco – as light at 9g/pack instead of more traditional 18g or 25g.

  “Smooth Moves – JTI has extended its Sovereign brand with the creation of a value pricemarked cigarette, Sovereign Smooth Flavour. The new packs are available in King Size 10s and 19s, with pricemarked packs flashed at £3.39 and £6.28 respectively.” Convenience Store magazine 14 March 2014.

You can see just some of the new developments in packaging at Talking Retail and see what the tobacco manufacturers are saying about how they are marketing their products. What is clear is that unless the Government takes action on standard packaging, these “silent salesmen” will continue to be very noisy and catch the eye of increasing numbers of potential young smokers.
* 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