Five reasons why we should have plain cigarette packaging
Should we strip cigarette packs of their
distinctive designs? Our Policy Officer Joseph Clift thinks the
case is compelling.
Tuesday 07 August, 2012
The UK Government’s announcement to launch a
consultation on introducing plain cigarette
packaging (which ends on August 10 incidentally) has
been met with howls of protest from tobacco
companies and pro-smoking groups.
Plain packaging, they say, will make no difference to whether
people smoke or not. They’d even like you to believe that there is
no evidence it would work.
So, why does the BHF believe that we should strip the
glitzy designs off cigarette packs? Here are five
reasons why we think it will help reduce smoking-related
deaths and ill health.
1. Packaging is advertising
With the advertising ban and other marketing restrictions in
place, packaging is now the key way for tobacco companies to tell
you something about their brand. The colours, designs and logos are
all carefully chosen to influence what you think
about the product.
And that’s not just our opinion. We asked young people – the
group most likely to start smoking - what they thought. Our survey
found that 69% considered packaging to be
advertising – with less than 10% actively disagreeing.
2. Reducing the appeal of tobacco
A question that’s frequently asked is whether plain packaging
would stop people smoking. Peer reviewed research suggests that it
The colours, designs and logos are all carefully chosen to influence what you think about the product.
Australia looked at what adolescent smokers thought about
cigarettes as they removed the different elements of the
– such as colours, branded fonts, and
imagery. They found that as the packs became plainer, the teenagers
found them less appealing, and their negative perceptions about
A study in Canada had similar findings, with plainer
packs being associated with fewer positive
characteristics, such as glamour, being slim, popular,
attractive and sophisticated. These studies have been replicated
elsewhere in the world including the UK.
3. Making health warnings more effective
In 2009, the UK became the first country in Europe to put
picture health warnings on tobacco products.
Whilst these images help to convey the risks of smoking, the
branding on the cigarette packaging dilutes their effectiveness.
Several studies have shown that health warnings are more
memorable on plain cigarette packs.
4. Making packaging less misleading
It wasn’t so long ago that some cigarette
packs carried the words ‘light’ or ‘mild’,
reinforcing the idea that certain brands
were ‘healthier’ than others. Whilst legislation was
introduced in 2003 to stop those words being used, elements of the
packaging design, such as colour, still suggest the same ideas.
Only last year, a UK study showed that tobacco packaging
misleads young people about the relative harm of products. We found
the same thing when we asked young people what they thought about
different cigarette brands. Despite the fact that all
cigarettes contain harmful toxins, over 25% of regular
smokers believed one brand to be less harmful than another based on
how the pack looked.
5. Smoking kills
Why does any of this matter? Well, every year around 200,000
children and young people start smoking. That’s a huge number of
people who have started a habit which still kills 100,000
smokers each year – including 25,000 people from
That’s why we want this last form of tobacco marketing
The Westminster Government has launched a UK wide consultation
asking for your views on the packaging of cigarettes. It ends on
August 10 so be sure to show your support for plain
packaging by signing our
petition today - we'll then send on your support to the