Cigarette packs designed with the world’s ugliest colour and graphic pictures have started to appear on the shelves of shops across the UK, eight months after the new regulations were passed.
In May 2016 it became law for all tobacco products - including roll-your-own tobacco pouches and cigarette boxes - to be sold in a ‘standardised’, brown packaging. As shops sell through their previously colourful stock the drab designs are starting to be sold to customers.
Plain packs are covered in ‘world’s ugliest colour’ known as opaque couché and 65% of every product must be covered in pictorial and text health warnings. In addition to this, no branding is allowed other than the product name in a standardised font and no other trademarks, logos, colour schemes or graphics are permitted.
The aim of plain packaging is to make smoking less appealing to children and young people. Packaging was one of the last ways the tobacco industry had of advertising their addictive, cancer-causing products to young people.
Research from Australia, who implemented the same plain packaging in 2012, has shown since the change of design consumers perceived their cigarettes to taste worse, be of lower quality and were more likely to ask for help to quit smoking altogether.
Tobacco companies fought strongly against law, claiming it would make counterfeiting their products easier. A HMRC investigation concluded there was no evidence to suggest standardised packaging would have an impact on the overall size of the illegal tobacco market. Claims that illegal tobacco trade has increased in Australia were unfounded, data from the Australian Government showed post-implementation.
Tobacco control campaign group ASH Wales Cymru is one of several prominent health organisations who campaigned for the law change, including Cancer Research UK. ASH Wales’ Chief Executive, Suzanne Cass, said: “Young people are the tobacco industry’s target audience and key customers - the next generation of smokers. Anything we can do to stop them from becoming addicted to something that is known to kill one in two long-term users can only be a good thing.”
“These standardised packs are very important - they’re designed to stop young people, who are highly influenced by what they see around them, from taking up this killer habit. Tobacco companies know they don’t need to entice adults who are already addicted.”
The tobacco industry has until May 2017 to ensure that all tobacco products comply with the new regulations. ASH Wales is now calling on retailers to rethink the positioning of tobacco products and to use the behind the counter space to promote higher margin products.
Suzanne Cass, said: “The disappearance of cigarettes behind gantry doors, and the shift to ‘plain’ packaging means the traditional product placement of tobacco is out of date. It now makes sense that retailers rethink the way they promote and sell cigarettes and hand rolled tobacco in this declining market.”