It’s the news we’ve been waiting for.
Today, the Government has announced that displays of tobacco in shops will be taken down, and they’re considering whether cigarettes should also be sold in plain packs.
Taking action against tobacco marketing is always welcome: tobacco causes one in four deaths from cancer, and half of longterm smokers will die from their addiction
The vast majority of adult smokers start in their teens so they are a top target for the tobacco industry. And since adverts in the media were banned, the tobacco industry has targeted their marketing on the glossy displays of cigarettes in shops and making their packaging attractive.
The end of powerwalls
We’ve written before about why tobacco shop displays must go. The large brightly lit displays act like big adverts for tobacco brands and, placed next to the sweets and crisps in shops, tobacco displays make smoking seem like an invitingly normal, everyday activity.
Although supermarket displays will be taken down by April 2012, today’s announcement delays the removal of displays in small shops until April 2015. We are very disappointed that they will last longer than they need to. The tobacco industry has led a massive campaign in favour of tobacco displays, based on various dubious arguments. In fact, Ireland has introduced very similar laws – and their shops found it straightforward to adapt.
Plain packaging back on the table
We are also pleased that the Government is looking at the introduction of plain packs – this could be every bit as significant in combating the harms of tobacco as the advertising ban or the end of smoking in public places.
The idea is that, rather than having all kinds of branding to make cigarettes appeal to different people, such as pink packets or long slim cigarettes for young women, all cigarettes and packets will look the same.
Research has found that plain packs would make smoking less attractive to young people while it will also improve the effectiveness of health warnings. Cigarette companies also use colours like silver indicating that some types of cigarettes are lower in tar and suggesting they are safer than other brands when, in fact, this is not true. Plain packs reduce these false beliefs.
Plain packaging of cigarettes and the removal of tobacco displays in shops are two policies backed by years of research.
It’s good that displays are eventually going – but the next step must be to end the attractive branding of cigarettes.
John Ellis March 10, 2011
I think one of the areas that does need to be looked at is the actual tobacco product itself, we have redesigned all our other social toxins to reduce harms and environmental damage. We have yet to re examine tobacco production itself to see how it can be made safer as a product. As the carrot and stick approach will only work for some, so passive behind the scene measures should be taken to ensure that the product itself is reformulated with less toxins and additives.
I enjoy my smoke although i know it harms me I also find Cigarettes are a good way to reduce smoking and should be promoted more as a cleaner and safer alternative to tobacco products. We need to use the same psychology of legal highs on the younger generations they see the world very differently to how we do.
Helen didn’t they try the skin thing with sunbeds to little or no avail?
Helen March 10, 2011
I think the visibility and packaging issues are on the wrong track – if anything it will drive the whole smoking habit underground – probably more rather than less attractive to the young – and I take John’s point about dodgy products coming onto the market. The main problem seems to be that young women (who are still taking up smoking at an alarming rate) think smoking actually looks cool and shows ‘independence’ etc. I know this is all about cancer, but a campaign built around the fact that smoking makes people smell horrid, makes their teeth and fingers go yellow and, ultimate, makes their skin age, would do more than anything else I feel, to put them off.
Terrence March 9, 2011
Every single piece of tobacco policy has been met with the same tobacco industry argument about increasing illicit tobacco, but the sum total of the last government’s policies is that illicit tobacco fell by almost half over the period. This claim is equally spurious, the reason people buy illicit tobacco is that it’s cheap, they’re not concerned that it’s ‘genuine’. CRUK is right to support evidenced based policies for reducing the harm caused by tobacco.
John Ellis March 9, 2011
The one thing that does concern me about plain packages for tobacco is the ability for contraband tobacco to flood our shelves, I say this as a smoker who buys from both the uk and the EU. Package colour shape quality etc makes sure you get a genuine product. how will this change cancer rates if anything it will merely let the current 1 billion illegal tobacco markets to further invade the consumer base with toxic tobaccos.