In 2012, Australia became the first country to implement plain and standardised packaging of tobacco products on retail shelves. This earned the Australian government several protests and litigations from tobacco manufacturers, which the Australian government overcame.
As of October 2020, 17 more countries have adopted and progressed in implementing plain packaging laws.
You may be wondering what plain packaging means and what regulations are under it. Wonder no more and keep reading.
What is Plain Packaging?
Plain packaging laws aim to regulate the packaging of tobacco products by prohibiting design features found on tobacco packages. These features include the images, color and shape of the package. Promotional texts was also prohibited.
Its aim was to address packaging and labelling measures under Article 11 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control established by WHO in order to reduce the consumption of tobacco products.
Key Reasons for Implementing Plain Cigarette Packaging
1. To reduce the appeal and attractiveness of tobacco products
According to the Centre for Disease Control, nearly 90% of smokers in the US tried their first cigarette by the age of 18. This shows that more young people are likely to start smoking. In order to reduce the number of young people who take that first puff, the appeal of smoking has to reduce.
Plain packaging helps to achieve this aim by making cigarette packaging as less attractive and less appealing as possible. To achieve this, packages are supposed to appear in standard colors without any elaborate designs. The use of plain font was also mandated.
2. To increase the noticeability and effectiveness of health warnings on Tobacco packages
There is a possibility that early 20th-century smokers were oblivious to the health risks associated with smoking. Even worse are the uneducated smoking population who may have no health education awareness or be unable to read or write.
Plain packaging helps to tackle any such ignorance by ensuring that manufacturers add warnings to their packages, preferably in pictorial form. These warnings must be clear, and visible and cover above 30% of the entire cigarette pack.
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3. Reduce ability of packaging to mislead
Promotional slogans can make some tobacco products seem more appealing than others whereas, they all contain the same thing; tobacco/nicotin.
Plain packaging forbids manufacturers from using promotional words and slogans such as “good”, “mild”, etc which may mislead consumers into thinking that one tobacco product is less harmful than the other.
Have these measures achieved their purpose?
WHO in 2019 released a global report called Trends in Prevalence of Tobacco Use. The report showed that there has been a considerable reduction in the number of tobacco users with each passing year.
While it can be argued that this trend is not a result of the regulations, it is undeniable that more people are now enlightened about the dangers associated with smoking.
In Australia, reports showed that the number of young people who have never smoked increased significantly in the years following 2011. It was also discovered that more adult smokers had quit smoking since the implementation of the Plain packaging regulations.
In fact, quitline calls in parts of Australia recorded an increase of 78% four weeks after the start of the Plain packaging. Such impacts were also seen in some other countries where PP has been implemented.
So, has plain packaging reduced smoking?
It could be misleading to say a straight yes or no but one fact is that plain packaging has achieved most of its set goals as seen in this WHO report. Consequently, we can hope that these set regulations will have a more profound effect by making more people quit smoking in the coming years.