Plain Packaging for Cigarettes

Here we tell you what plain packaging is, why people are campaigning for it and what difference it will make.

What is plain packaging?

Plain packaging is not plain! It is about controlling the style, colour and branding of tobacco goods so that every packet looks the same. At the moment every tobacco company has a particular brand image with lots of different types of packages. If plain packaging became law then every single packet of cigarettes would have the same design, colour, font, size, shape and opening. The name of the company would be on the package but it would be the same colour, font and size as every other brand. In Australia, the packages are going to have health warnings in large print and big images on the packet. If plain packaging becomes law, it will probably be the same in Scotland.

Why plain packaging?

Tobacco companies spend a lot of time and money making brand images and trying to attract people to buy their products. Now that tobacco advertising is banned companies focus on the packaging to try and get people to buy their brand. Campaigning organisations think that plain packaging will help lower the number of people smoking and put young people off from starting to smoke by making the packages less attractive and emphasising the health warnings more.

The Facts

In November 2011, the Australian Parliament passed legislation requiring the plain packaging of tobacco products (cigarettes, cigars, rolling tobacco). The tobacco industry is tried to fight against the plain packaging in Australia saying that it is a violation of intellectual property rights. They lost the battle. The new laws came into force on December 1st 2012. Tobacco companies said that:

  • There is no evidence that it will work- The tobacco industry are claiming that plain packaging will have no effect on how much they sell, but if they really think it won’t make a difference why are they protesting so much? There is more and more evidence suggesting that plain packaging could reduce the numbers of people smoking. Different researchers have found that plain packaging makes tobacco products less attractive to young people and adults.
  • Other unhealthy products will be forced into plain packaging- Plain packaging will only apply to tobacco products. Other things such as fast food or alcohol might be unhealthy if you have too much but they don’t kill if you stick within the limits. Tobacco is the only legal product that is lethal when used as the maker intended. 

Next Steps

The Coalition Government in London is thinking about bringing in plain packaging in the UK. In 2012, the UK Government carried out a national consultation to find out what people thought about it. The results of that should be coming out early on in 2013. ASH Scotland is campaigning for plain packaging. To find out more about the campaign go to the ASH Scotland website.

Alternatively you can contact your local MP or MSP directly and make your opinion on this important issue known to them. The Scottish Youth Parliament is also closely following the debate on plain packaging. A fill list of contact details for local MSYPs can be found at the Scottish Youth Parliament website.