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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?

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