Australia smokers given plain packs

An example of what cigarette packets in Australia may look like Grim health warnings like this are replacing the branding on cigarette packets in Australia

Related Stories

Australia has become the first country in the world to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes.

From now, all tobacco company logos and colours will be banned from packets.

They have been replaced by a dreary, uniform, green/brown, colour accompanied by a raft of anti-smoking messages and photographs.

The only concession to the tobacco companies is their name and the name of the brand variant in small print at the bottom of the box.

"This is the last gasp of a dying industry," declared Australia's Health Minister Tanya Plibersek.

Anne Jones of the anti-smoking group Ash (Action on Smoking and Health) agrees.

"Plain packaging has taken the personality away from the pack", she says.

"Once you take away all the colour coding and imagery and everything is standardised with massive health warnings, you really do de-glamorise the product."

Cigarette packets were practically the last platform for tobacco companies to advertise themselves.

Commercials on Australian television and radio were banned in 1976. Newspapers followed in 1989.

Targets set

Tobacco sponsorship of sport and cultural events was prohibited in 1992.

That left the packets themselves, which became a target for the current Labor government.

The government's efforts were led by then-Health Minister Nicola Roxon whose own father, Jack, died from a smoking-related illness when she was 10.

Start Quote

Plain packaging is here to stay in Australia. We now plan to go after the ingredients contained in cigarettes”

End Quote Anne Jones of Ash

The government argued that with 15,000 smokers dying each year at a cost to society of AU$30bn (£19bn) it had a duty to act.

It set the target of reducing smoking levels from 16% of the population in 2007, to less than 10% by 2018.

In May 2011, Cancer Council Australia released a review of the evidence surrounding the introduction of plain packaging. The review suggested that packaging plays an important part in encouraging young people to try cigarettes.

That was followed by a telling video, released by anti-smoking campaigners, showing children discussing existing cigarette packets.

One boy says the red on one packet reminds him of his favourite car, a girl admires the pink on another packet, while another boy talks about the "heavenly" colours on his box.

The combined messages about the efficacy of logos and colours in selling cigarettes, helped prompt the government to begin its legislative push to introduce plain packaging.

Not surprisingly, the tobacco industry resisted.

A consortium of major companies, including Phillip Morris, Imperial Tobacco and British American Tobacco (BAT) came together to plan a counter punch.

That included an extensive media campaign to try to persuade the public and government of the shortcomings of plain packaging.

Cigarettes on display Tobacco companies say removing the branding from cigarettes will not stop people smoking

BAT's spokesman, Scott McIntyre, says: "Plain packaging has always been misleading and won't stop smoking because branded cigarettes will be smuggled in and because tobacco companies will have to respond to that by cutting prices to stay competitive."

Despite those arguments, last August Australia's High Court ruled in favour of the government.

It threw out technical arguments by the tobacco companies that the government was trying to "acquire" their intellectual property rights by removing logos.

"Plain packaging is a game changer," says Anne Jones, a veteran of anti-smoking campaigns.

"It means that you can take on big tobacco and win."

It's known that Britain, France, Norway, India and New Zealand have been among those following the Australian court case closely, to see if there are any lessons for similar plain packaging measures in their countries.

Rare legal set back

But Scott McIntyre of BAT says it is not that straightforward, arguing that the Australian government only won because of the peculiarities of Australian constitutional law.

But there is no doubt that tobacco companies have suffered a rare legal set back, although there could still be further action by them at the World Trade Organization.

"We don't fear that," says Anne Jones of Ash.

"Plain packaging is here to stay in Australia. We now plan to go after the ingredients contained in cigarettes."

Anti-smoking lobbyists like Anne Jones know that packaging changes alone wont significantly curb smoking, especially among established smokers.

Price, availability, information campaigns and health messages play an equally important role.

But cigarette packets will no longer be mini, mobile advertising boards and, for those working to reduce smoking levels, plain packaging is an important stage in the shift to a smoking-free society.


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 205.

    Political thought and behaviour police dictating again, I just wish they would keep their noses out of lifestyle choices they disagree with.

  • rate this

    Comment number 204.

    If Companies are not allowed to advertise their wares on the outside of the packets could we see a return of the wonderful cigarette card collections of my youth?

  • rate this

    Comment number 203.

    Addiction is the problem not smoking in particular. I have seen families wrecked by alcohol and drugs and gambling than a pack of fags.
    I accept smoking is a serious health risk, but alcohol is far and away much worse. So what have we allowed to happen? Booze is as cheap as water, bars are open 24/7 and pubs that had a chance to control/influence consumption shut! No strategy only taxes!

  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    Simple solution - smoke roll-ups. They're far less toxic, taste better, and don't smell as much as the commercial brands. I'm a non-smoker, by the way. But I've tried both and my testimony is backed up by basically every smoker I've ever met.

  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    Why not just make smoking something you buy a licence for once, then existing smokers have 12 months to get their licence and after that no one new is allowed to start smoking... you order your cigarrettes direct from the newsagent who gives them to you in plain boxes. you choose your brand/brands on the licence.

    problem solved.

    alternatively simply raise the smoking age by one year each year.

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    couple of things for you all to consider:

    ASH masquerades as a charity, it is actually governmnet funded, it couldn't raise enough funds to run a website on its own. It's influence comes from that, not its research or anything else.

    For those of you you use alcohol, you are next. Minimum pricing is the start, the rest of the state guilt trip is coming to a town near you soon

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    My favourite warning photo on UK packaging is the one showing the lungs of a smoker, and the lungs of a non-smoker to demonstrate the damage smoking causes.

    But (obviously) the non-smoker is just as dead, so all it demonstrates is the futility of worrying about these things - especially as stress is a proven killer.

    Well I'm off to the pub to relax, drink beer & smoke cigarettes - Sláinte.

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    Plain packs a very good idea. They should hurry that out in UK as well

    But perhaps just one sentence in large capitals


  • Comment number 197.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    The most hilarious bit about the anti-smoking campaign is that the government now receives so much money it has become impossible to ban smoking

    Over 100 Billion every 10 years is the equivalent of the UKs entire energy policy over the next 10 years

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    I'm an ex smoker & ex employee of a 'tobacco giant'. I trust that the plain packaging does deter new smokers. Apart from the harm that smokers cause themselves, they significantly affect others also. e.g. parents smoking over/near their kids, smokers smoking in non-smoking areas, or the manufacturers who cause valuable farming land for tobacco growing instead of much needed food production

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    NO to plain packets, it might work in Australia, but not in the UK because Bootleggers will go to Europe and bring back original packs brands.The packaging in the UK is not glamorous, it only shows the Cigarette name, and a colour, If we follow Austrailia less TAX is collected thus Tax collected elsewhere.Cuts in hospital costs,will be increaced in OAP with Hyperthermia.

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    Will they be putting care homes in plain packages it seems they are bad for peoples health.

    Why are we discussing smoking in Aussie and christmas trees in Brussels? Nowt happening in this land of ours. The headlines would suggest otherwise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    If we Smokers all stopped smoking, which product will the Government target next, in order to gain their Taxes? I'd say... triple the price of a stupid Coffee purchased in a Pub, especially in a Wetherspoon's venue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    Perhaps you might die some day. Never fear, Mother State is ready to protect you, and all the other little children, from any and every evil.

    Mother State will protect you from you, because Mother State is not you. Mother State has endless supplies of money, drawn from the Magic Mother's Money Pile. That is not your money, nor your children's debt. It is magic money, and Mother State is not you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    It won't affect me, I smoke cheap baccy from Europe and keep it in a tin lol

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    I have a list of countries that I refuse to visit or do business with due to their health police tactics. needless to say the USA is number 1, now I shall add Australia to the list.

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    I dislike smoking, my dad died of lung cancer after starting smoking in the army in ww2. But it's not like we are immortal. Everyone will die of something eventually. Total state control over people's lives is the end of the path here. Totally miserable Orwellesk states telling everyone how to live every second of every day, while they do whatever they like.

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    Can we put health warnings on politicians too please?

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    i realy hope they ban smoking so all you anti smokers pay the price in higher taxes.
    you go 99% off the way but cant afford to ban it outright.
    as always money talks.
    smokers keep up the good work, as you pay for the health service in taxes plus keep 1000s jobs alive


Page 25 of 35


More Asia stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.