Plain packaging of cigarettes

  chub_tor 16:25 29 Nov 2013

It has been suggested that packaging cigarettes in plain boxes or boxes with just a health warning on them will make them less attractive to youngsters thinking of taking up smoking.

I was a smoker for 12 years starting at age 14 and up to 30 a day before ill health forced me to quit but the reason I started in the first place had absolutely nothing to do with the packaging. It was the fact that I could buy them in ones and twos from an older lad in the Air Training Corps who was out to make a shilling or two for himself.

I can't think of anything other than cost or taste that affected my decision to smoke a particular brand except for one time when I purchased some Balkan Sobranie just to see what these pink and purple pastel coloured fags tasted like. I did not repeat the experiment and immediately went back to the good old standby coffin nails made by Wills and called Woodbines.

  fourm member 18:26 29 Nov 2013

With advertising, everyone says it doesn't affect them but advertisers keep spending millions every year.

It is the same with plain packs. Everyone says the pack doesn't matter but there is plenty of high quality research showing this is not true.

And you have to assume that the extreme efforts being made by tobacco companies to block the introduction of plain packs means they know how important the pack is to their business.

  Forum Editor 18:52 29 Nov 2013

Plain cigarette packs became law in Australia about a year ago. Thepacks are a sludgy green colour, and carry a very prominent and forceful health warning.

It's early days, but research has revealed the interesting fact that 'most' smokers feel the quality of the cigarettes has declined, and that they are a less satisfying smoke. The quality hasn't changed of course, but perception has - underlying the fact that the way the pack looks is very important. Smokers are saying that they find the new packs off-putting, and many of them say they are considering quitting the habit.

  chub_tor 19:15 29 Nov 2013

Well I may have got this wrong but I thought that I heard on the radio that a prime objective for introducing plain packaging was to reduce the uptake of cigarette smoking by children and from my own experience the packaging had no influence at all on my decision to try smoking. I did it because both my parents smoked and so did many of many of my peers and I wanted to be like them.

I agree with you FE that advertising works with cigarettes by making them more attractive and offering up the idea of a better lifestyle. The success of Marlboro was certainly partly due to the influence of the Marlboro Man and their advertisements Ferrari F1 cars, I'm just not sure that fancy packaging encourages one to start smoking in the first place.

  fourm member 20:23 29 Nov 2013

'from my own experience the packaging had no influence at all on my decision to try smoking'

Your recollection of your own experience is not typical.

The University of Stirling reviewed every study it could find and concluded 'Non-smokers tended to find plain packaging less appealing'.

Just last month it reviewed 17 studies that have happened since and 'consistently found that plain packs reduced the appeal of the pack'.

If you want to look at single studies then click click or click

  chub_tor 11:28 30 Nov 2013

My recollection of the reason I started smoking may not be typical but it is a fact. I would be very interested in any study that asked smokers why they decided to start and if packaging influenced their decision in any way. All I can conclude from the clicks you linked to is a vague statement that Increasing the size of pictorial health warnings and standardizing the appearance and shape of packages may discourage smoking initiation among young people.

  Marko797 19:40 30 Nov 2013

I'm not sure I buy into this 'plain packaging' idea, despite the cited research, & I'm not convinced that fancy, or colourfully designed packaging has any influence on people taking the habit up either.

I'm also unsure as to the levels of success which the 'under the counter' idea has achieved, whereby all tobacco related products are now concealed from view in supermarkets. Not sure of the point of that when (I understand) small shops & garages are currently exempt from this requirement.

Back to packaging, if you look at Marlboro Gold today (used to be Marlboro Lites), the packaging, apart from the 'Marlboro' name in black lettering, could not be more plain if it's plain white - no colour at all, apart from white!

Ironically, despite its plain packaging, they are the "largest selling brand of cigarettes in the world", according to (unsubstantiated) information courtesy of Wikipedia.

  Aitchbee 23:30 30 Nov 2013

... the newly-created potential opportunity for 'safe' advertisers who are probably queuing up , at this moment in time, to display their 'wares' on the 'denuded' neutralised exterior brown-papered-coloured packet[s] of fags 'with-no-name' ... is boundless, I reckon.

  michaelw 08:52 01 Dec 2013

I began with a packet of 10 Rothmans with my mate in the park at the age of 12 and it took another 30 years to give up.

Marketing plays a part in everything we buy and 'branding' is very influential. Take that brand away and you take away the appeal.

What confuses me is that I thought TV companies were discouraged from showing anyone smoking, but in Ripper Street the captain smokes like a chimney.

  fourm member 08:56 01 Dec 2013


That Marlboro Gold pack is far from plain. The gold arrow takes your eye to the words 'filter cigarettes' and 'everybody knows' that filters make smoking safer.

It's a very subtle piece of design fully taking account of the current debate about packaging.

It really doesn't matter what you buy into nor does it matter what chub_tor claims to remember about his smoking initiation.

Properly conducted research aims to get passed what people claim or think and find out what they actually do and that research clearly shows that some people are put off smoking by plain packs. Of course, 'some' is a very important point. You will never find a measure that works for everybody.

Your point about point of sale displays in fact makes the case for plain packs. Not everyone will be deterred from smoking by the POS restrictions so you need to introduce plain packs to get to some of those who aren't.

Some people reject research on the grounds that it can be manipulated. That is very true as shown by this article looking in detail at the way the tobacco companies misrepresented the science to suit their case.

  chub_tor 11:02 01 Dec 2013

fourm member

nor does it matter what chub_tor claims to remember about his smoking initiation.

You are inferring that my memory is faulty and I resent that. I know why I started smoking and it was nothing to do with the packaging, there wasn't any packaging to remember, they came out of a cigarette case, were not filter tipped and could have been any brand. I was 14, I didn't care what brand they were, I was smoking, I was a big man, I was one of the gang, I was just like my peers.

The reason for choosing a brand after I was hooked and had the money to buy more than one cigarette at a time, was influenced by advertising and price. I started with Woodbines because they were the cheapest, I have already mentioned my experiences with Sobranie and for a while I smoked Capstan Extra Strength and later on Marlboro, a good part of those choices were because my mates recommended them.

The first line of this thread reads "It has been suggested that packaging cigarettes in plain boxes or boxes with just a health warning on them will make them less attractive to youngsters thinking of taking up smoking." I have yet to see an argument that clearly proves that to be true. Someone needs to go and talk to the 12,13, 14 year old kids who are right now starting to smoke and ask them how important the brand between their lips is compared to availability and price.

michaelw I don't know how you got hold of a packet of 10 Rothmans at age 12, I couldn't afford to buy even a packet of 5 Woodbines at 1953 prices.

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