Government to enforce plain tobacco packaging?

Paul Murray

Ultimate Member
I read this today in the morning paper, and it was quite interesting to look at it from a designers' perspective;

BBC News - Make cigarette packaging plain, government urges

Basically, tobacco manufacturers could be forced to produce plain packaging for cigarettes and tobacco products because current packaging is promoting cigarettes in a positive, eye-catching manner.

Do they really believe that producing plain, brown boxes with just the brand name and a picture of cancerous lungs will deter people from smoking? Well, maybe if they used Comic Sans or Papyrus on there somewhere.

If you were redesigning the packaging based on this news, what would you do?
Good zen question: what kind of a design is no design at all?

See Denis Leary's bit on cigarette packaging from No Cure for Cancer for a satirical take on this issue (I expect it's on YouTube somewhere).
I think this is one of those cases where packaging doesn't matter. They could be in a completely white box, but people will still buy them.
That's exactly what I thought when I read it.

I think they're trying to prevent youngsters starting smoking in the first place, which I believe has more to do with educating and prosecuting retailers who illegally sell tobacco products to children than what the packagin looks likes.

At the end of the day, if an adult makes the choice to start smoking, they'll do it no matter what.
One of my friends way back in time when everybody smoked has an ashtray shaped like a coffin. . . that was off putting!
Stop selling them in packets at all.

Sell them in biodegradable brown paper bags of no more than five and make them double the price and use proceeds to go towards charities etc. Ban them in prisons so people arent hooked when they come out and force companies to reduce the nicotine/addictive substances in them.
@kovah ~ I think you're forgetting that quite a hefty percentage of people smoke. Heavy handed tactics such as these will do NOTHING for society.

For instance: doubling the price for a quarter of the amount will just anger a lot of people who don't have much money in the first place (you're adding to the already horrendously difficult financial situation of many)

Lowering the amound of nicotine/addictive substances: People will just smoke more to get the same value as before = won't work.

Also: I don't know why smokers are demonized and viewed as "patients" by the population of people who don't because ultimately, if you NEED that cup of coffee in the morning you are in the same boat.

The stigma attached to smoking leads many smokers to have a very low self-esteem and therefore lowers the chances that they will want to attempt to give up.

In case you hadn't guessed already, I am a smoker. Not a heavy one at all but aside from my own prejudices about non-smokers I find it very difficult to come to terms with the attitude I get for nipping outside for five minutes while down the local - they all see you as needing to be "cured".....disgusting state of mind to have if you ask me.

In answer to the question at the top of this thread? I think that plain boxes and under the counter sales would prove a very good strategy in helping to stop kids getting into it (there is not much you can do for the adults that already do, you can't help people who don't want the help). also to keep better tabs on establishments who do sell to underage kids.

Gonna leave you with one more thought: Blame the parents.
Logopro: I'm against smoking, I dont like the smell of the smoke and think its more of social fad that people get into when they are younger, cigarettes dont taste nice the first time you try (i have tried one once.) So it mystifies me why people get hooked in the first place. Do they do it to just fit in? Because at some point in time it became a social norm to stand around in little groups and puff on white sticks? Not to mention the fact when i worked at a cafe all the smokers periodically just disappeared for 'five minutes' several times during the day. So got and extra 20 minutes or so of not working while i had to stay inside and wait tables short handed because those people had gone round the back.

However the main reason i am against smoking is because my dad died suddenly of a heart attack recently the fact he smoked contributed ALOT to that fatal heart attack, my uncle died 3 months after once again a smoker and once again it contributed to his death. Another one of my uncles now has throat and lung cancer which cant be operated on so if the chemo doesnt work I might loose him as well. If demonising smokers or guilting them into stopping or making them angry because they cant get their fix of nicotine because its too expensive saves just ONE persons life or their relatives from having to loose a member of their family or a friend then its worth it.
Looking at it another way, I don't think the current design makes people wanting to pick up a packet and start smoking it. Maybe the design has more of an impact for already addicted smokers but I don't think making the packets look like they are Tesco value will really have an effect on these people, will it? Or am I really underestimating design?
Acknowledged. I also have no answer for your question as to why people get hooked in the first place, I dont know.

I'll stand by my first reply - you're heavy handed approach would lead nowhere other than a lot of angry people.

I have also had several family members perish from smoking related illness - one from lung cancer and the other from heart disease so I know what this feels like.

My only answer to all this that you have stated would be: so what about alcohol? far more damaging drug not only to one's health but degrades society as a whole - the only reason that this is not a "fad" is because faaaar more people enjoy it day to day but in the end it's still a poisin that does nothing for people except drag them closer to a horrible, painful end.

So what can we do to stop kids getting into alcohol? Nothing because it's socially acceptable.

Why? It smells bad, it degrades people, hangovers leading to sickies leading to lower productivity, a sticky end.

They're not so different. It's called perspective (something the government seems to have lost hence; attacking smokers :icon_Wall:)
I don't consider alchohol to be as bad, its certainly as destructive when abused dont get me wrong but considering that most people that drink sensibly in moderation all those people do not have a five minute drink during the day perhaps several times a day, if they did people would consider them to have a problem even smokers would consider them to have an alchohol problem but its perfectly fine for smokers to do the same which is socially acceptable.

gtg finish later :)
Looking at it another way, I don't think the current design makes people wanting to pick up a packet and start smoking it. Maybe the design has more of an impact for already addicted smokers but I don't think making the packets look like they are Tesco value will really have an effect on these people, will it? Or am I really underestimating design?

I used to find when I was smoking that if I was in a rush, I'd go into a newsagent, look at the cigarette packs at the back and if the cigarettes I smoked weren't there because I needed a fag would buy the nearest thing because I needed one! I think if you make them all the same it makes the cigarette brands the same and it would be a more even board. I think they are more worried by that.
The notion that people either take up or continue smoking because of the allure of the packaging is plainly wrong. Non-smokers and smokers alike are fully aware of the risks (it's just that the latter choose to ignore them), so it's half-arsed in the extreme for anyone to think that they're addressing the issue through the current proposals.

Like Leary says, cigarettes could come in a black packet with a skull and crossbones on the front, be called 'Tumours' and still people would be queueing up to buy a pack.
Like I said before, the trick to this is to try and prevent the number of people taking up the habit.

I don't believe the packaging makes any difference to the initial problem, only to the brand chosen once their choice has been made.

Dave L is right. I would still buy them if they were called "tumours" and were plastered with all manner of destroyed lungs, livers and hearts - making them shiny and silver and eye catching is partly down to the fact that they are all on display.....which they shouldn't be.
An interesting thread, I'm not a big fan of smoking, never smoked even though I come from a family of smokers. Maybe it was the sight & sound of my Mother & siblings hacking & wheezing every morning put me off!
Putting cigarettes in plain packets won't work, smoking is an addiction, you could charge £10 a packet & people would still find the money to buy them. One thought occured to me, would we see a increase in sales of cigarette cases if this law was to go ahead?
With anti-smoking legislation, I think it's all about being seen to be doing something. The truth (or my highly cynical version of it at any rate) is that the authorities wouldn't dare introduce any serious threat to the smoking or drinking industries, not because of individual freedoms or anything like that but because of the massive revenue they generate which (I'm led to believe) far outstrips any associated costs of treatment, etc.
I agree about the heavy-handed tactics. Penalising and punishing smokers isn't the key to change.

Whether these changes will have any immediate impact is unlikely, but over time I'm sure we will see a drop in new smokers. After all, it wasn't that long ago that tobacco advertising was banned.

It may not have much effect on current smokers but new generations who grow up being taught smoking is unhealthy and are not exposed to the products are much more likely to not start. Over time I'm sure government figures will show a drop in smoking after the campaign is put in place.