Thursday, April 26, 2012

Why we need plain packaging

Last week, the government announced that it would be moving towards plain packaging for tobacco products. Meanwhile, from the UK (which is having a similar debate) we have a knockout reason for requiring it: because the tobacco industry is using its packaging to market to children:

Tobacco companies are designing cigarette packs to resemble bottles of perfume or with lids that flip open like a lighter to lure young people into smoking.

Research published yesterday reveals the lengths to which the industry has gone to make its packs attractive to new generations of smokers as opportunities for promoting its products have been progressively reduced.


The research shows children aged from six to 11 are drawn to the slickly presented packs, responding with remarks such as, "It makes you feel you're in a wonderland of happiness", "It reminds me of a Ferrari" and "Yeah, pink, pink, pink." Jean King, director of tobacco control for the charity, said: "Children are drawn to the colourful and slick designs without having a full understanding of how deadly the product is inside the pack. It is time to end the packet racket."

The range of designs has proliferated over the last decade, since print and billboard advertising of tobacco was banned 10 years ago. Long, slender cigarettes contained in pastel coloured packs indicating femininity, style and sophistication are targeted at young women. Packs of 14 cigarettes are designed to look like packs of 20 but sell at a lower price.

Its is of course illegal in the UK to sell tobacco to anyone under 18, just as it is here. But that doesn't stop the tobacco industry from trying. Their marketing machine is all about soliciting people to break the law. And due to the advertising ban, packaging is their chief vehicle for doing this. And they admit this:
Tobacco companies have admitted that packaging is key to promoting their products. An internal memo from Philip Morris obtained by researchers read: "When you don't have anything else packaging is our marketing."
(Emphasis added)

To them, packaging is simply a means of circumventing advertising restrictions and of marketing to people they shouldn't be marketing to. And the only way to stop it is to require plain packaging.