Australia has officially passed a new law making it mandatory to sell cigarettes in identical brown packaging. The branding is reduced to just the standard font and color at bottom of the box, while most of the free space is take up by images of cigarette induced diseases and other highly unpleasant visuals meant to make a smoker think twice about lighting up.
Images: European Community, 2005
Thoughts on this provocative move have been mixed; those who regularly consume smokes try to ignore the images as much as possible, often asking for a packet with the least disturbing photo which apparently happens to be the one with the stubbed out cigarette, while the least desirable photo is concluded to be the before and after picture of a man dying of cancer. Some consumers find that cigarette cases are the solution while others are successful in ignoring them all together. Still, the packaging has stirred up public debate, proving that its statement isn’t going unnoticed and that the visuals are strong enough to leave an impression.
Fiona Sharkie, executive director of the anti-smoking group Quit Victoria, says, “They’re so horrifyingly ugly that they are magnificent.”
The Canadian Cancer Association also released a study about cigarette packages, ranking warning labels from world wide. Australia topped the charts after being the first country to pass legislation requiring plain packaging while Canada came in fourth. There are rumours that New Zealand and the UK will follow suit, issuing laws of the same caliber for their packaging.
A UK dad Simon Day said: “If you make tobacco products less appealing fewer people are going to go for it. Change the appeal of the product and you’ll change people’s attitude towards it.”
Does this plain packaging have the persuasive power to break an unhealthy habit? Old habits die hard, and just like in the movie, its going to take some unpleasant sacrifices in order to reach the goal of a smoke free society. This new non-brand packaging is effecting the market in a number of ways. Other than damaging the tobacco industry by discouraging potential future smokers, it is also making the logistics of distributing and selling cigarettes quite a hassle. Distributers have a problem of checking off cigarette deliveries against invoices since the branding is not apparent straight away and it takes sales-persons a lot longer to find a particular brand on the shelf and even longer if the consumer insists on a less gruesome package. This is a schoolbook example of how the design and branding of a product can effect not just the appeal, but a whole array of sectors that make up the marketing chain.