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Plain-Packaging and Kids: The Case for Cigarettes Sold in A Plain Brown Wrapper

Updated on March 19, 2014
Proposed Plain Package Design in Australia
Proposed Plain Package Design in Australia | Source

Plain cigarette packaging is an idea whose time has come, if for no other reason than it is now clear that selling cigarettes in plain packages sans colorful photos and attractive branding, actually keeps kids from wanting to try smoking.

Confirmed smokers tend to know what brand of cigarettes they want before they walk into the store. They are brand-loyal when it comes to cigarettes. Young smokers are, therefore, the prized target of the tobacco companies. The marketing motto of Big Tobacco is "catch them young and have them for life"(however long or short that life might be). An addicted customer is a loyal customer, so why not hook them on YOUR brand at the age when most kids first try smoking--16.

Every cigarette pack is a powerful marketing tool. Each time a smoker opens his pack to take out a cigarette, the branded pack sends a strong marketing message, so it is no wonder, that as the international movement towards plain packaging of cigarettes has gained momentum, so have the lobbying efforts, delaying tactics and well-financed, misinformation campaigns of Big Tobacco.

A Chilling Info-Graphic


Plain Packaging In Austrailia , the UK and Beyond

In 2011, Australia became the first nation in the world to pass legislation requiring all cigarettes to be plain packaged. An international consortium of major tobacco companies ( British American Tobacco (BAT), Philip Morris, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International) moved immediately to block the law in a case in Australia's High Court. A phalanx of well paid corporate lawyers is still at it, claiming, on behalf of powerful tobacco interests, that the new laws are unconstitutional for various reasons and that the science is inconclusive.

This is not so different from the fight that went on in the United States from the 1960s through the '70's where tobacco interests underwrote pseudo science, clogged up the courts and made a major marketing effort to try to show that smoking did not cause cancer and heart disease in the face of massive factual evidence to the contrary. They were thinking of their shareholders and the bottom line, and not the health of their customers. Neither the strategy nor the tactics has changed much in half a century.

The Australian law bears watching as it is the bell weather for the world. Tobacco interests are resisting big-time. Even so, New Zealand is planning to pass its own plain packaging law and a plain-packaging movement is growing in the UK where a government consultation on the subject is now under way. The future of plain packaging is looking pretty good worldwide. That is a very good thing for future generations.

North America, where Big Tobacco interests have the most clout, is approaching the problem from a slightly different angle. The United States has given the FDA massive power to regulate the manufacture, sale and marketing of cigarettes. Starting in September, 2012, manufacturers will be required to put graphic, warning photos on cigarette packs to discourage both existing and potential smokers.. Naturally, the tobacco industry has tried everything possible, including major lobbying efforts in Washington, to stop this, but it has failed. There is real evidence that the new package warnings will discourage young experimenters from starting to smoke. Thus,even if logos and branding on the packs are not addressed, the American law is essentially the equivalent of a plain packaging directive and serves the same purpose.

Big Tobacco Speaks Out in the UK

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is this: We know that cigarettes are powerfully addictive and that they kill. Your smoking friends love to tell you about great aunt Agatha who lived to be 90 and smoked a pack a day, but the truth is that smoking takes an average of seven years off your life, causes all kinds of health problems from gum disease to strokes and heart attacks, and is the leading preventable cause of death in in the developed world. On top of that, nicotine is highly addictive and second hand smoke does real damage to non smokers and smokers alike. Tobacco is a killer. There is nothing good to be said about it.

Why then, would we not do one simple thing to protect future generations from a powerful and life shortening drug? There is good evidence to show that most addicted smokers started by the time they were 16 and there is growing evidence that the younger one is when one starts smoking, the harder it is to quit later on in life, due to the fact that the brain is still developing during the teen years.

There is further evidence that plain packaging of cigarettes really does cut down on kids wanting to try smoking in a way that no parental lecture or school regulation can match. Plain packages are not cool, not sexy, not inviting. Anything we can do to make smoking seem less grown up and glamorous to youngsters is a good thing.

This is about the health and welfare of our children-- yours, mine, and everybody's. No matter where you are, you can inform yourself about the issue, and if you are in Australia, New Zealand, or the UK, where it is really heating up right now, you can actually sign petitions or volunteer time or give money to fight for plain packaging should you care to.

Plain packaging of cigarettes is a simple but important step we can take, worldwide, to keep kids from starting to smoke. Why do you think everyone who makes money from cigarettes from Big Tobacco to farmers and tobacco shop owners is fighting it? Because it works and they will lose money-- that's why.

Check out the links below or just google " plain packaging of tobacco" to find out more. Oh yes, and please feel free to leave your opinions and comments as well, and if you feel like it, take the poll below to go on record with your opinion on plain packaging of cigarettes

What's YOUR Opinion?

Do you think plain packaging of tobacco products is a good idea?

See results


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    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Hi Robie2,

      Another great hub in your campaign to end smoking - of which I am a wholehearted supporter.

      In the UK now it is illegal for store to display cigarette and tobacco packets. They are kept behind ominous, locked, gray metal doors (quite hospital-like, actually) and you have to know what you want and ask for it. The idea is precisely that behind the concept of plain packaging. It discourages children from 'browsing' the shelves either looking for a brand they think is cool or from simply scanning for what their pocket money/bus fare/lunch money might allow.

      In England the other effect is interesting because you have to put the store-keeper to so much trouble to unlock the door, slide it back on its grating, squealing metal slider and then slide it closed again and lock it anew. Causing that degree of discomfort goes against the grain to the typical English mentality!

      I fully support the drive for plain packaging and admire all your hubs here that deal with this very important issue of social health. Tobacco and Arms industries combined represent the twin evils of our capitalist culture - profit at any cost - even if that cost is the lives of our own children.

      I can't wait to see them brought to their miserable knees.


    • farmloft profile image


      8 years ago from Michigan

      Very interesting hub, but I do wonder if it would really work. Kids find the darnedest things to get in trouble with that don't have cool packaging. Or they get hooked on things even more deadly than cigarettes: K2 Spice, for instance.

      I hope the plain packaging works. Voted up.

    • robie2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Roberta Kyle 

      8 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Thank you so much "1patricia" I only wish that we could get this kind of legislation going here on this side of the Atlantic but unfortunately the tobacco lobby is very strong. I'm passionate about this sort of thing as an ex heavy smoker who started at the age of 16 and smoked for 30+ years. There have been so many deaths from smoking that didn't need to happen, I really hope we can spare the next generation the consequences of smoking.

      Thanks so much for the vote and share. It is always nice to see either or both of the Patricias here on Hubpages.

    • 2patricias profile image


      8 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      This is interesting. I knew that the UK government is introducing plain packaging legislation, but I couldn't understand why. I was thinking about confirmed smokers, and their addiction.

      I would support anything that might prevent kids from starting this dreadful habit.

      My mother died from lung cancer, as did the other Patricia's best friend from her school days. A horrible end.

      I've voted this up - and I've "shared" it also.

    • robie2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Roberta Kyle 

      8 years ago from Central New Jersey

      kmnrgw--I watched the video and you are right-- it is totally disgusting. Here's the link -- this is a must see if you care about kids

      thanks for mentioning it and I have my fingers crossed too. I say bravo UK and may North Amerca be next.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I'm from the UK and have my fingers crossed that the government can win this fight. I think this blog is brilliantly written.

      May I suggest that you watch the following documentary on youtube: Sex, Lies & Cigarettes': Vanguard Sneak Peek.

      It shows what the tobacco companies get away with in countries with slack regulations. shocking!

    • robie2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Roberta Kyle 

      8 years ago from Central New Jersey

      well, I dunno, diogenes-- suicide by cigarette?? not a very quick, cheap or nice way to go IMHO :-) Thanks for stopping by.

    • diogenes profile image


      8 years ago from UK and Mexico

      I was pleased to see these noxious things disappear from plain view in the UK lat month after years of wrangling by the arch criminals. I was amused to read a story recently saying that top tobacco executives had sworn their families off cigarettes! Then they try to kid us there not poison.

      But,,,folk, we've got an overpopulated world...need I say mre


    • robie2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Roberta Kyle 

      8 years ago from Central New Jersey

      HI rm and thanks for those kind words--I must say that the figures in the info-graphic are for the UK not the USA-- but there is not too much difference all over the world. Most smokers started smoking when they were in their teens. It's a sad but true fact.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Wow, I had no idea that there was such a big difference from this packaging change. The last I heard was everyone discussing whether or not to include pictures of damaged lungs, etc. It is shocking to me that 2/3rds of smokers start before age 18, but if that's the case, then it is clear that this is a change for the better!

      Wonderful hub. You always inspire me to write!

    • robie2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Roberta Kyle 

      8 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Wow four comments already-- thank you sooo much guys. Hang in Realhousewife-- it gets easier and good for you. Thanks for commenting.

      Billybuc yup-- as my father used to say " you can't put old heads on young shoulders" People have to find out for themselves, but we don't have to make it easy for them.

      Steph-- you make a good point about the generic packaging. I remember it well and there were even generic packaged cigarettes then too--thanks for a great comment about plain packaging for tobacco products

      Hey ST-- well I agree that for confirmed smokers, hoorible pictures of bleeding gums and canderous lungs do nothing at all-- but I am not so sure that is the case for kids just starting to smoke or considering it. The research says that for them, the uglypix work. Once you are addicted and know that you can't quit, they lose their power. But you make a good point, plain packaging and the USA new packaging address the same problem but are not exactly the same in their effect-- and thanks for taking the poll-- much appreciated:-)

    • Sally's Trove profile image


      8 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      Great job of bringing us up to date on what's new in the war against cigarette smoking. I was looking forward to seeing this hub. :)

      I do disagree that "...American law [which would leave branding alone but add scare-tactic graphics] is essentially the equivalent of a plain packaging directive and serves the same purpose." No one remains afraid of over-used scare images that fade from notice because of constant exposure. However, to be seen with a pack of cigarettes in a plain wrapper allows no identity with the "cool" aspects of branding. If the Marlboro man is gone as an icon, then what's the point of smoking like he does?

      Up, interesting, and useful. And yes, I took the poll. :)

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Marshall 

      8 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      As the parent of kids ranging in age from 9-14, I am all for plain packaging of cigarettes! We have had many discussions about smoking, and my children are athletic and - so far - not interested in smoking.

      But let's be real about draw of attractive packaging. Remember the boring generic items that used to be labeled with simple black lettering on white backgrounds at the grocery store (early 1980s?) Who want to buy a can of "PEAS" instead of a can with an attractively designed label? When customers part with their money, they want to feel like they are getting something special.

      Plain brown wrappers are not enticing - exactly the point of the new legislation. I hope they adopt similar regulations in the U.S.!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      8 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great job Roberta! I truly don't know how you keep kids from smoking; it almost seems to be a rite of passage but unfortunately a highly addictive one. Great job on this hub and I hope it awakens some people.

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 

      8 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      I'm trying to quit again now! Wah! It is awful so yes I do want the package to be ugly and unlovable:). I know because I smoke it increases the chance of my kids smoking...and they are girls so I see they have an even higher risk! I do not want my kids having this kind of habit and anyone in their right mind should consider that. Another crappy think we are leaving behind for the future?? Excellent hub!


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