Cigarettes should be sold in plain, dull cardboard packs, with nothing but the health warning and the brand name allowed, researchers at the School of Public Health have argued in a major review published in the international research journal, Addiction.
Ms Becky Freeman and Professor Simon Chapman have combed through tobacco industry trade magazines and previously private internal tobacco industry documents, finding that the industry today sees the pack as its most treasured advertising medium. "They are quite open about it: now that the law prevents them from advertising, the main game is now via the pack. Pack design is now the leading edge of making tobacco products attractive and interesting, particularly to young starters."
They are backed by investment advisors Morgan Stanley who stated in 2007 "In our opinion, [after taxation] the other two regulatory environment changes that concern the industry the most are homogenous packaging and below-the-counter sales. Both would significantly restrict the industry’s ability to promote their products."
Freeman & Chapman note that governments have long regulated packs by mandating large and now grisly pack warnings. "Not one cent has been paid by any government to compensate any company for loss of trade mark. International law is plain on this: governments can over-ride all arguments about the sanctity of trade marks and branding by invoking public health concerns."
With the WHO recently forecasting that one billion people will die from tobacco caused disease this century, and over 150 nations having ratified its Framework Convention on Tobacco Control which bans all forms of tobacco advertising, governments serious about tobacco control need to finish the job and require plain packaging, argue Freeman and Chapman.
Chapman, who has been awarded the WHO medal for tobacco control, says that plain packaging may seem a radical policy today, but that the same was said about banning to tobacco advertising, sports sponsorship and banning smoking in workplaces. "Prescription drugs are all sold in plain packaging without alluring colours and imagery. These promote health. Cigarettes kill half their users and should be made as unattractive as possible."
(Source: Addiction: Jake O’Shaughnessy: University of Sydney: March 2008)