Impact of Plain Packaging on Smokers

Despite vehement global anti-smoking efforts over the past several decades, cigarette smoking is proving extremely difficult to eradicate; according to the World Health Organization, there are nearly 1 billion smokers on the planet and that number is increasing. Australia recently became the first country to up the ante in the cigarette smoking war with proposed legislation that would require tobacco companies to sell plain packaged cigarettes to consumers. Plain packaged cigarettes are covered in macabre images of the health damages associated with smoking and large, printed health warnings; advertising is diminished by the printing of the brand name in simple, white font. The bill was introduced by Australia’s federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon, who stated that “this plain packaging legislation is a world first and sends a clear message that the glamour is gone – cigarette packs will now only show the death and disease that can come from smoking.”

So what is the actual impact of plain packaging on smokers? Will it really curtail cigarette smoking, or is it just another idealistic attempt to control the human propensity for vice? Probably a mixture of both, but researchers think that plain packaging has the potential to be an excellent weapon against cigarette smoking because it hits the tobacco industry right where it counts: advertising. According to a study released by Quit Victoria in May 2011, the tobacco industry “uses cigarette pack technologies and innovations in design to communicate particular attributes about each brand and by extension the personality and social status of its users.” Put simply, the cigarette package has become the tobacco industry’s central marketing tool. Although there has never been a legislated implementation of plain packaging, which Quit Victoria readily points out, they go on to claim that “plain and generic packaging made cigarettes less attractive and appealing” based on the hypothetical findings of an expert panel of the Canadian Department of Health in 1995. In essence, the argument is strip away the tobacco industry’s marketing ability and allure of cigarette smoking fades away into the grotesque images on plain packages tobacco.

While plain packaging will no doubt help make cigarette smoking a much more unpleasant experience, it is not likely to dramatically decrease the number of smokers worldwide because the decision to smoke ultimately rests with each individual. Warning labels on cigarette packages have been around for years and that still has abolished the cigarette smoking trend-many smokers even laugh off the platitudes plastered onto their packages such as “smoking is lethal” or “smoking can lead to a slow and painful death.” It is a good and necessary thing to clip the wings of the insidious tobacco marketers, but as evidenced by tobacco warning labels, people often need a more personal impetus to give up bad habits. One such impetus is money-the more tobacco is taxed and the more expensive it is, the more likely people are to stop using it. Warnings are a good deterrent, and should be used, but the ultimate way to stop cigarette smoking is to pick people’s pockets.

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