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The Standard

Plain packaging insults my intelligence, and yours too

Written By: - Date published: 10:00 am, October 27th, 2012 - 123 comments
Categories: culture, drugs - Tags:

This is something of a response to Zetetic’s post, which in some part I agree with – BAT’s ads are just stupid.  And too long, especially since half your audience already know if they agree or disagree with it five seconds in.

(And I think the “slippery slope” warning is too little too late, because if we don’t see the same arguments being put forward for junk food in the next few years I’ll eat fat-free cheese.)

But I’m clearly on the “wrong” side when it comes to plain packaging – based on the people I see defending it, with whom I normally agree, and the people I see attacking it, at whom I normally want to throw half-bricks.

I just want to share two quotes from that modern-day source of all knowledge, Wikipedia, and its article on plain packaging:

 Direct, concrete evidence of plain packaging’s effectiveness is unavailable as it has not yet been rolled out in any country.

and

However evidence from quantitative studies, qualitative research and the internal documents of the tobacco industry consistently identify packaging as an important part of tobacco promotion.

To give Wiki its due, this does seem to sum up the basic arguments for plain packaging.  But am I seriously the only person who can see how those two statements are not actually logically connected?

Am I the only person who sits here saying, “ZOMG!  Packaging is an important part of tobacco promotion?  Truly, this is a stunning revelation!”?

Is there something magical about cigarette packaging and branding which sets it apart from all other packaging and branding?  I’ve had long-term relationships with smokers, people.  I can assure you, the glint of light off a pack of Marlboro Lights is not significantly more enticing than a screechy Harvey Norman TV spot.

Check out this study, which contained earth-shattering conclusions like:

 tobacco packaging communicated powerful brand identities to young adult smokers and non-smokers, and respondents could identify clear brand personalities for both familiar and unfamiliar cigarette brands

This clearly doesn’t apply to any other products.  I, myself, simply could not make any kind of guess as to the intended audiences nor brand identities of these gaming devices or this laptop or this global brand.

Let’s remember, we’re already at a stage where supermarkets and dairies no longer have gigantic displays of cigarettes at every counter.  The argument then was, “the magical packaging magically entice people to smoke against their will, so we will deprive the magical packaging of its power!”

Strangely, people kept smoking.  It’s almost like cigarettes contain an addictive stimulant which also forms a significant part of a lot of some people’s social interactions.

So now … we’re seriously acting like “oh, well the brief moment when someone takes out their pack of cigarettes is enough to brainwash you into smoking!  That’s how powerful the psychic paper they make the packs out of is!”

Smoking’s bad for you.  We’ve known this for decades.  Let’s please give our fellow human beings the credit to assume they’re not just going “cancer?  But it comes in a pretty box!  YAY!”

(And please, don’t “but think of the children” at me.  Kids smoke because their parents smoke, their older siblings smoke, because they’re rebellious teens doing rebellious teen things.  Putting Mummy and Daddy’s fun-sticks in boring white boxes ain’t going to change their learned experiences of/associations with smoking.)

123 comments on “Plain packaging insults my intelligence, and yours too”

  1. the sprout 1

    I disagree.
    A lot of addiction is about stimulus control, or so-called “trigger” effects.
    The packaging becomes a classically conditioned stimulus to smoke. Plain packaging serves to remove one more cue to smoke; and I think every bit helps.

    • QoT 1.1

      But … you can’t see the packaging due to restrictions on display. And you don’t think the shape of the package, the brand name, might do it? Every smoker I know has a brand. And they call that brand by its name, not “the blue one with the palm tree on it”.

      What about seeing other people smoke? Given the social factors I mentioned, you don’t think being at a party and your smoking buddies saying “hey, want a smoke?” or being at work and your colleagues breaking for their regular morning-tea cigarette is going to be just a tiny bit more of a “cue to smoke” than a specific shade of Marlboro red?

      I mean, this is exactly what I’m talking about. People who want to quit have a hell of a lot more to worry about that seeing a familiar logo, and telling them they’re so pathetic they can’t resist a shiny package is probably not the self-esteem boost they need to help kick the habit.

    • David H 1.2

      I agree with him, when I started smoking I was 14 and yes the packaging and the advertising was a big thing, and growing up in south London in the 60’s you needed to look ‘tough’ so smoking helped there as well. I have since given the filthy things away, but I still pay every day for my 40 years of smoking folly. The ad is way to long 10 secs is all it needs. And anything that discourages the young to give up the smoking is okay with me. And smoking is not just the tobacco just get a list of whats in the cigarette. Or just read this.

      http://www.quitsmokingsupport.com/whatsinit.htm

  2. Richard Christie 2

    Hmmf.
    Turn the argument around.
    Outline the reasons for keeping fancy packaging. Spare us any faux moral high ground arguments over freedom of intellectual property, coming from merchants of death they are risible.
    If fancy packaging doesn’t promote sales then what does it matter if it is absent.
    Plain packaging still identifies the brand.

    • QoT 2.1

      If plain packaging “still identifies the brand” then your argument, Richard, is “smokers are too stupid to read, they just get grabby-hands in the presence of a particular shade of green”. Which was kind of the whole point of the title of this post.

      It’s not on me to justify “fancy” packaging. I’m addressing the lack of logic and insulting nature of the arguments in favour of plain packaging. Here’s a logical statement: “allowing tobacco companies to sponsor sports events links smoking and athletic performance/health. This is a bad connection, so we won’t allow it” – the only problem being we do allow the All Blacks to be sponsored by Coca-Cola, so bit of a double standard there.

      This is not a logical statement: “allowing tobacco companies to put their brand on their product makes people smoke because people who smoke are too stupid to realise that the shiny packaging has cigarettes inside it.” I’m sure even you can figure out why.

      • Richard Christie 2.1.1

        If plain packaging “still identifies the brand” then your argument, Richard, is “smokers are too stupid to read, they just get grabby-hands in the presence of a particular shade of green”

        Like, wow, what a strawman.

        I get the distinct feeling you have no clue about marketing and brand identification.

        It’s not on me to justify “fancy” packaging.

        Humour us. Why don’t you have a stab at it and treat us to your expertise.
        .

      • wtl 2.1.2

        I don’t quite get it. You seem to be arguing that packaging has a very direct and conscious effect on wanting to purchase and consume a product, rather than a more subtle sub-conscious effect like pretty much all kinds of advertising and marketing. Yes, perhaps the effect is disappearing because of restrictions on displays, but it is a logical step to take to remove the last remaining vestige of tobacco advertising.

        Will it make everyone suddenly smoking? Of course not. I don’t think anyone is arguing that. Will it contribute to the decreasing rates of tobacco use? I think it might. But even if it doesn’t, at worst it is a bit of a distraction. The fact that tobacco companies are fighting so hard against it makes me think that they believe it will have an effect as well.

        • QoT 2.1.2.1

          I think it might.

          I think banning skinny jeans might contribute to decreasing incidences of hipsters, but strangely enough we don’t get to make public policy based on my opinions of subgroups I dislike.

          • wtl 2.1.2.1.1

            The two things (plain packaging vs banning skinny jeans) are not analogous. Banning fancy packaging of skinny jeans would be similar. But not banning skinny jeans themselves. As I said, we already block other kinds of marketing for tobacco products, so enforcing plain packaging is just another step in that direction. Tobacco products are not themselves being banned.

      • ghostwhowalksnz 2.1.3

        All Blacks and Coca Cola is a double standard ????
        What planet are you on !.
        Coca Cola may or may not be ‘good for you’, depending on how much you drink.

        Smoking will kill you, and is addictive to boot. There is no such thing as smoking is ok in small doses, ever

        • QoT 2.1.3.1

          I don’t believe there’s an objective moral imperative to health, gww. Smoking is problematic to me because it usually affects other people who haven’t chosen to smoke, but individual adults’ decisions to use mind-altering drugs isn’t something I make judgements on.

          • weka 2.1.3.1.1

            Where do you stand on public health initiatives then? The ones that are based on the good of the population rather than the individual.

            • QoT 2.1.3.1.1.1

              1) Define “good of the population” in a way that doesn’t also justify any number of human rights abuses

              2) Define “public health initiative”. Are we talking about education campaigns, as I’ve commented on below? Informing people, increasing accessibility? Or are we just taking things we don’t like from people we don’t like? I think you can have a guess which I would support.

  3. Bumble 3

    Thanks for this post! I’m a non-smoker, but I found this really encouraging after the authoritarian hate-spiral of Zetetic’s post. The idea that Zetetic, CV or DTB can self-apply the label of “liberal” while seeking to take away the most basic small freedoms we enjoy is nothing short of stunning, intentional hypocrisy.

    What happened to the true liberal left? Let me and my family live our lives in freedom. Like bloody well drinking a beer with whatever colour label I wish. Like filling an old preserving pan with ice and various different drinks at a BBQ once a month, rather than a set of uniform grey labels. You don’t care about branding? Fine. Don’t think you can decide for me.

    So, thanks QOT. It’s nice to know that not everyone here is a controlling bastard.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.1

      The idea that Zetetic, CV or DTB can self-apply the label of “liberal”

      Don’t think I’ve ever applied the liberal label to myself. Anarchist, sure and even commun1st and usually in association with each other but never liberal.

      BTW, liberal today in NZ is usually applied to that far right loony bin ACT.

      What happened to the true liberal left? Let me and my family live our lives in freedom.

      When you do something that affects someone else then that someone has a full veto right to stop you doing it.

      To be honest, I don’t care about the packaging anymore – just get rid of the advertising.

    • fatty 3.2

      “…while seeking to take away the most basic small freedoms we enjoy”

      Are beer labels one of you most basic small freedoms? In what way does a beer bottle sticker allow you freedom, or make you more free?

      • Cool. We have established neither yourself nor anyone you know makes or sells their own brew. It doesn’t effect your freedoms, therefore it doesn’t affect anyone elses.

        • fatty 3.2.1.1

          Oh, I see, bumble was talking about the freedoms of businesses. I thought she/he was talking about the freedom to buy beer with a label on them. I thought that because its pretty clear to me that the alcohol industry has no freedom.
          We restrict business freedoms all the time, in so many ways, particularly when they are selling drugs that have negative consequences. Being able to advertise on TV during the day is not allowed, and that is opposing their freedom. Alcohol can only be sold in certain places, this restricts their freedom. We have so many laws around alcohol that freedom doesn’t exist.
          I am not allowed to drink a beer in the city botanical gardens…so my freedom around alcohol has been affected, and it is in a number of ways.
          There already are limits on how you can package/label alcohol, this would be another change which would effect booze barons (legal drug pushers really).
          So I’m all for it, and for ciggies. If weed and most other drugs were decriminalised (which I think they should be), then I wouldn’t want fancy labels on them. And I am fuckin sure that I wouldn’t want them to be run as a free market commodity. There should be very strict restrictions on them. And the tax on them should be higher. And the prime minister shouldn’t have his photo taken while snorting a line of coke…just like he shouldn’t us beer as a photo opportunity.
          I don’t care for the micro-brewery scene, if you want to make beer, you can do it under tighter regulations, because its already regulated. Micro-brewers have no freedom anyway.
          And…wouldn’t it be good for the micro-brewers if they weren’t competing against the visual branding power that the major brewers possess? Do you really think people buy Tui and Export Gold for the taste? Or do they walk into the beer cooler and those TV adverts with bouncing boobs get linked to the labels on the shelf?

          • Bumble 3.2.1.1.1

            I was talking about my personal freedom. Although as someone who homebrews once in a while and enjoys the occasional visit to my local microbrewery for something loaded with hops, I could take the business angle too.

            My freedom to drink beer from a particular colour bottle is no different to my freedom to wear a blue shirt on Monday’s, or brush my lower teeth first. It’s the freedom to make the small decisions in my life without the interference from authoritarian jerks. What you propose is like a law saying I can’t take the dust jackets off my books, or the tags off the my mattress.

            > I don’t care for the micro-brewery scene

            Yeah, that’s says it all: “Hey, I don’t do X, so I don’t see why anyone else should do it.”

            • fatty 3.2.1.1.1.1

              So it is that you equate a more free life with an image on a bottle…

              “My freedom to drink beer from a particular colour bottle is no different to my freedom to wear a blue shirt on Monday’s, or brush my lower teeth first. It’s the freedom to make the small decisions in my life without the interference from authoritarian jerks. What you propose is like a law saying I can’t take the dust jackets off my books, or the tags off the my mattress.”

              They are very different. Alcohol is a drug that alters the mind and is linked to issues such as road deaths, domestic violence, sexual violence, addictions, etc. Wearing a t-shirt, brushing your teeth and the dust jackets on your book do not have sociological effects. Your argument should be considering if marketing through the use of labels is contributing to our drinking culture…your argument is so flawed its comical.
              I see the branding of alcohol throughout society from bottles, to adverts as part of the problem with how we view alcohol. I don’t think we should allow branding for drugs.

              “Yeah, that’s says it all: “Hey, I don’t do X, so I don’t see why anyone else should do it.””

              I’d already stated how my alcohol use is not free, our alcohol laws are a reduction of my freedom, but a loss of one person’s freedom is another’s empowerment. So I see you as having the selfish perspective. I’m happy to have my freedoms suppressed if it helps others.

              • Populuxe1

                So basically, by your reasoning, we should ban sexual intercourse because it can spread diseases and leads to overpopulation

                • tracey

                  is there a safe way to smoke a cigarrette, and do most smoke them this safe way?

                  • Populuxe1

                    Technically speaking no form of contraception is 100% perfect, and the argument in question was for alcohol, not cigarettes.

                • fatty

                  Yeah Populuxe, I’m against marketing of alcohol, therefore I want sex made illegal.
                  I’m also not big on genocide – which therefore means I believe choc chip muffins should be banned.
                  FFS, is that the best you can come up with?

                  • Bob

                    According to those TV ads a few years back regarding speeding, driving a car at 120 km/h doubles your chances of dying in a car crash, does that mean that by this logic we should ban all advertising of any car manufacturer that allows their cars to reach 120 km/h? I mean, it is our personal choice to travel over the speed limit so that MUST be affected by the car advertisers, the same way that I enjoy having a couple of beers for dinner but the advertisments are apparently causing me to want to binge drink.

                    • fatty

                      Jeeze…another ‘by that logic, you must also believe’ argument. I have no idea what you mean by your last sentence.
                      Are we talking about cars at 120kph? Cars are not comparable to alcohol. One is a moving vehicle, the other is a drug…what are you on?

                      Here’s my argument:
                      I would like to see plain packaging and advertising bans/limits on alcohol as well as cigarettes. I think all drugs should be decriminalised and a few available at drug stores, the others on prescription. Plain packaging for all drugs, high tax, honest information and a good health service for when they give people health problems.
                      I judge the ‘badness’ of a drug on what it does to other people, not so much on what it does to the user. I think our anti-cigarette society has gone overboard..what do I care if someone smokes a cigarette? It does not effect me at all. Loads of outdoor public spaces have now banned cigarettes, which is stupid.

                      Since you and Pop1 are so keen on comparisons…here’s one involving drugs (products that are comparable – not cars, sex and booze).

                      When we finally come to our senses and decriminalise weed/shrooms/pills etc – I hope they are sold in plain packaging too. I don’t want weed and other drugs promoted with branding / marketing. I don’t want to see decriminalised weed to be marketed the way alcohol and cigarettes are/have been.

                    • Bob

                      Do you really think that using plain packaging on drugs is where this will stop?

                      To a point I agree with you (including the decriminalisation of other drugs), however, allowing plain packaging on drugs sets a precident for nanny-staters to run rampant through every other product that ‘does people harm’, or ‘can harm others’ such as cars, sex, foods, booze.
                      For a start, the active ingredient in booze is ethanol, a drug, plain packaging. Coffee has caffeine in it, so does tea, red bull, coke etc, caffeine is a drug, plain packaging. Chocolate contains theobromine, a potentially dangerous drug, plain packaging. Imagine how hard grocery shopping is going to get having to read every label! Don’t think for a second it won’t happen, because it already is. This idea was mooted for cigarettes and within a year it is already being proposed for alcohol.

                      Murphy’s law “Make something idiot-proof, and they will build a better idiot.”

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Oh Bob, you’re getting confused, this ain’t nanny state at all.

                      People can still have their coke and drink it.

                    • Bob

                      CV, if you don’t think that this is an ill-conceived nanny-state type idea with potentially massive repurcussions to daily life, it is you my friend that is confused. Just imagine walking in to your local supermarket and staring at isle upon isle of white boxes with plain black writing on them and trying to find sugar, which is in plain packaging because it acts as an analgesic drug which can be addictive (also the reason that every product containing sugar is in plain packaging), next to the artificial sweeteners which are in plain packaging as they can cause an insulin response, but because blood sugar does not increase there can be increased hypoglycemia or hyperinsulinemia, which leads increased food intake the next time there is a meal causing obesity (also the reason that every product containing artificial sweetners is in plain packaging).
                      These are all completely rediculous reasons to put sugar/artificial sweetners into plain packaging, but are no different to saying, because I buy beer in a red can with a picture of a bird on it, I am more likely to binge drink! If you truly believe this, I will leave you with said beer brands catch phrase ‘yeah right’.

                    • fatty

                      Bob,
                      I don’t care if people eat themselves to death with chocolate. Yes caffeine is a drug, but my neighbour doesn’t give his missus the bash after a coffee. A car can kill other people, but its not a mind altering drug. Cars are not addictive and give their addicts an early death the way smokers do (actually, that’s debatable). Cars are one of the most restricted products you can buy, but they have practice uses, very different from drugs.

                      Your sugar rant is amusing, but its a fantasy, sugar is needed in a healthy diet…I think you mean highly processed food. And the slippery-slope argument is a Bob McCoskrie technique. It bores me. “If you do this…then next you will do this!!!”. I don’t believe it. There is no way the food industry will get restricted the way that alcohol has. There should be changes to our food, various taxes, reduced taxes on others, and advertising restrictions.

                      If you agree with decriminalisation – would you be happy to have weed/shrooms/pills marketed the same way we do with booze?
                      Also, let’s imagine that we managed to bring in plain packaging for alcohol and cigarettes without falling down the slippery slop and into a 1960’s USSR communist culture…in what way would your life be worse off without alcohol / cigarette labels – what would you have lost?

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Bob,

                      Sugar, if it were some kind of pharmaceutical product like you are claiming (weird man), will be able to be purchased in full colour medical packaging in pharmacies.

                      OK?

                    • Bob

                      Fatty, you don’t care that people eat themselves to death with chocolate? You should be, (from memory, citation needed but can’t be bothered right now) obesity is already a higher killer in NZ than cigarette related deaths, PLAIN PACKAGING that’ll fix it. I’m glad your neighbor doesn’t have a coffee then bash his missus, I’ve never bashed my missus after drinking, in fact I’ve never bashed anyone after drinking, does that mean I’m drinking the wrong coloured can? Cars may not be addictive, by the adrenalin rush that comes from driving cars quickly is, and its dangerous to the driver/passangers and anyone else on the road at the time, don’t worry though, stopping the ads and taking away the cars badges will fix this.
                      The sugar idea was far end of the scale, but still viable under your ‘only drugs’ position, and isn’t having 3 glasses of red wine a week along with a healthy diet ‘good’ for you as it reduces stress levels and has been linked with reduction in heart disease? (more citation needed, but again, can’t be bothered) Does this mean Red Wine will be exempt from your laws because it is part of a healthy diet?

                    • Colonial Viper

                      This is not nanny state.

                      People can still have their red wine and drink it.

                    • fatty

                      “Fatty, you don’t care that people eat themselves to death with chocolate? You should be, (from memory, citation needed but can’t be bothered right now) obesity is already a higher killer in NZ than cigarette related deaths…The sugar idea was far end of the scale, but still viable under your ‘only drugs’ position”

                      No, its not, sugar has nothing to do with my thoughts on drugs. My position on drugs has to do with their affect on society, not on the individual. If a person wants to eat sugar, be unhealthy and shorten their life…then they can go for it. I’m also using the term ‘drugs’ as being a substance that is mind-altering, or something like nicotine that is highly addictive. If we were saying that any action or product which can become an addiction is a drug, then where would we stop? Your sugary slippery slope is a joke, and a lame argument

                      “…and isn’t having 3 glasses of red wine a week along with a healthy diet ‘good’ for you as it reduces stress levels and has been linked with reduction in heart disease? (more citation needed, but again, can’t be bothered) Does this mean Red Wine will be exempt from your laws because it is part of a healthy diet?”

                      No, not at all, alcohol is a mind altering drug…whatever you’ve read in the latest readers digest does not change this fact.
                      Remember I am for people choosing their own drug, but I am against labeling/marketing…
                      Since I’ve clarified that, can you answer these questions?
                      If you agree with decriminalisation – would you be happy to have weed/shrooms/pills marketed the same way we do with booze?
                      Also, let’s imagine that we managed to bring in plain packaging for alcohol and cigarettes without falling down the slippery slope and into a 1960′s USSR communist culture…in what way would your life be worse off without alcohol / cigarette labels – what would you have lost?

                    • @Bob

                      “CV, if you don’t think that this is an ill-conceived nanny-state type idea with potentially massive repurcussions to daily life, it is you my friend that is confused. “~Bob

                      It is well and good to call the demand for plain packaging a “Nanny State” thing to do, however you omit to acknowledge what such a move is addressing and thereby conflate “protection” with “oppression”.

                      Of more concern to me is the way large companies are given the freedom to shift people’s desires solely for the motive of profit and this occurs regardless of what that product does to the consumers’ health. Is this furthering our society?

                      I don’t think it is advisable for a Government to ban the use of things like nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, sugar etc, however I am entirely happy for them to curb the marketing of these products. As many people have commented on this thread; plain packaging isn’t going to stop smokers smoking, I do believe it simply doesn’t encourage it.

                      My argument falls down with respect to the Government’s aim of banning the product completely, and I would have to disagree with such an aim, however I consider it is a great move to curb marketing techniques that are applied to us with regard to toxic products and consider this protective of my well-being, not oppressive to it.

                  • felix

                    “FFS, is that the best you can come up with?”

                    Yes fatty, pretty much.

                    If you say you want them to stop doing anything, then obviously you want to stop them doing everything. And probably at gunpoint, because not only is everything exactly the same as everything else but every reaction is identical in scale to every other possible reaction.

  4. AsleepWhileWalking 4

    For awhile I wasn’t sure if I was reading satire. You make some good points. I guess I still think plain packaging is a good idea because I hate tobacco companies and enjoy watching them pay.

    Let’s face it, when the TPPA comes in we may lose any right to even THINK about making a law change like this.

    My method of preference in dealing with Tobacco companies is by making it compulsory under law that they support and provide extensive sponsorship for a social cause that the NZ government can’t/won’t fund anymore such as rape crisis (yes, over and above the taxes already whacked on their product). And I like the idea of rape crsis organisations being seriously sponsored by big tobacco because of the association. This provides real leverage both for rape crisis organisations who would have a big brother who can’t be pushed around because of his size, social inclusion of these organisations, and on the flip side to some degree the association may discourage someone from smoking. Yes, a crazy idea but at least it is a way of supporting these services which are going through continual struggle in providing a vital service that our government continues to smother with extensive funding cuts or even no funding at all. It’s probably slightly immoral to accept this type of funding but the alternative is far worse.

    • “Let’s face it, when the TPPA comes in we may lose any right to even THINK about making a law change like this.”

      +1 Yes, its really rather good of them to provide a lucid example of exactly what we can expect more of from an agreement such as the TPPA

    • Draco T Bastard 4.2

      My method of preference in dealing with Tobacco companies is by making it compulsory under law that they support and provide extensive sponsorship for a social cause that the NZ government can’t/won’t fund anymore such as rape crisis

      Absolutely hate that idea because then the critical social cause becomes beholden to a capitalist entity that just doesn’t give a shit about society. And it will also give them a just cause with which to associate themselves with.

  5. Lanthanide 5

    “Let’s remember, we’re already at a stage where supermarkets and dairies no longer have gigantic displays of cigarettes at every counter. The argument then was, “the magical packaging magically entice people to smoke against their will, so we will deprive the magical packaging of its power!””

    Having olive green boxes with plain cigarette names on them has a chance of changing the way children and teenagers view smoking and cigarettes. Is it trendy to be seen with what looks like a box of no-frills medicine?

    Plain packaging will do dick for those already addicted, but it might help to discourage people from taking it up.

    • felix 5.1

      “Is it trendy to be seen with what looks like a box of no-frills medicine?”

      No, because there are other more attractive options available. Make them all identical and suddenly that doesn’t work any more.

  6. QoT 6

    has a chance of changing the way children and teenagers

    Like the post said, this hasn’t been established. Like the post said, there are probably a lot more reasons why kids start smoking, because there’s a big, significant step between saying “ooh, shiny packaging” and “I’m going to remove this cigarette from the shiny package and light it and inhale the smoke produced.”

    • Lanthanide 6.1

      Sure, but I’d rather do something that, at best, is going to make no difference to smoking rates (and actively cost tobacco companies), than do nothing at all and live with the current status quo.

      Are there other things we should do? Probably. Should we enforce plain packaging instead of doing those other things? Depends how effective those other things are, compared to how effective plain packaging is.

      I do see a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation with your argument, though. You’re saying that because there is no evidence for this, we shouldn’t do it. If no one does it because there’s no evidence for it, then there’ll never be a chance to gather that evidence.

      Why can’t NZ (along with Australia) take the lead on something for a change?

      • Rusty Shackleford 6.1.1

        I’m predicting fancy cigarette cases will make a come back. You can get vintage ones on trademe for about the same price as a pouch of tobacco. Maybe fancy lighters as well. Zippos and coffee table ones etc.

        • Lanthanide 6.1.1.1

          Yes, good point. We’ll have enamelled/steel tinned cases that look like the original branded packets. Simply transfer the little paper/foil bag from your olive green box into your steel tin.

  7. PlanetOrphan 7

    People smoke because they are starving, full stop.

    It helps the hunger pains whether they realise it or not.

  8. Bill 8

    1. Any advert connected with smoking, including the ‘Quit’ ads, act as a trigger to people trying to give up smoking.

    2. In regards to a more widespread adoption of plain labelling, I wish people would acknowledge the presence of illiterate people (lots of them) who generally and necessarily buy products based on their label design rather than their name.

    3. The tobacco companies are running anti- plain label ads because they know full well about the impact of point no. 1.

    4. (More of an aside) Packaging and labelling are two different things.

  9. weka 9

    Yeah, I’m for the plain packaging for tobacco thing too, and your arguments don’t hold up I’m afraid QoT.
     
    The reasons why people smoke, and take up smoking, are multi-factorial. One of the reasons why people smoke is because it makes them feel better than going through withdrawal. But it’s not just about nicotine receptors, all addiction has a strong psychological component. Even without seeing the packet in the shop, the association with the visual in the hand/pocket/at home and the brand (associated with advertising) and the feeling good when I take a drag is very powerful. My packet of fags* with the known visuals is a security blanket. Anything that undermines that is worth trying IMO, so long as poor people aren’t overly disadvantaged.
    *I don’t smoke any more, but am relying on memory.
     
    I don’t support plain packaging across the board – I like a certain aesthetic in my life – but the case for nicotine is pretty easy to make. I also agree with a variation on what someone else said, about making things harder for the tobacco companies. They really don’t deserve any breaks from society at this point in time. And obviously if brand labelling didn’t work they wouldn’t be fighting this so hard.
     
    Of course I’d much rather see the underlying reasons why many people smoke eg poverty and stress, addressed as well.

    • weka 9.1

      Re the multi-factorial thing, NZ has been using a range of strategies to reduce smoking and uptake of smoking for a long time. It’s the range that is important, rather than any one thing. My apologies to people who are addicted to nicotine, but smoking is a significant public health issue, and one of the core ways to reduce this is to associated smoking with negatives and to make it harder. Smoking has decreased over time in NZ because we’ve done a lot of different things, rather than searching for a silver bullet.

    • QoT 9.2

      Even without seeing the packet in the shop, the association with the visual in the hand/pocket/at home and the brand (associated with advertising) and the feeling good when I take a drag is very powerful.

      So what you’re saying is it doesn’t really matter if you see the packaging or not … but it does matter if you see the packaging.

      See, this is where I’m confused. And you know, I’m not opposed to trying to decrease smoking rates by informing people. My problem is basically that this move feels like Wellington City Council trying to make the homeless people stay off Cuba Street: it’s got very little to do with actually wanting to fix the problem and everything to do with making it so we Good Sanctified Non-Smokers don’t have to look at it. And also get to feel smug and superior to smokers because we’re so much better than them.

      • weka 9.2.1

        “So what you’re saying is it doesn’t really matter if you see the packaging or not … but it does matter if you see the packaging.”

        Where have I said that??!

        I think you are confusing different factors. Removing tobacco from sight at point of sale is a different strategy than plain packaging, and aimed at different behaviours.

        All the factors – banning smoking in public places, gross health warnings, removing tobacco from obvious display, banning sports sponsorships, plain packaging… they’re all sending variations on a message: smoking is bad, as well as inducing change in behaviour. And while I also don’t have an ethical problem with people smoking that need to, I don’t in fact have a problem with the government legislating to discourage people from smoking either (and legislating to undermine tobacco company strategies to get people to smoke) and I support them to do pretty much everything they do do to encourage people not to start.

        In other words, smoking may not be morally bad, but if sending the message that it is bad helps reduce smoking, then that’s ok by me.

        ” My problem is basically that this move feels like Wellington City Council trying to make the homeless people stay off Cuba Street: it’s got very little to do with actually wanting to fix the problem and everything to do with making it so we Good Sanctified Non-Smokers don’t have to look at it. And also get to feel smug and superior to smokers because we’re so much better than them.”

        Yes, but really that is all about your feelings. You can write off health policy boffins all you like, but I don’t see any evidence that they are the useless, self-interested do-gooders that you say they are. I’ve been watching health policy on smoking for over 25 years, and can point to the various strategies developed by health policy boffins. And every step of the way, the same arguments are trotted out against reducing smoking. Yet here we are 20 years down the track with a lower rate of smoking (and that despite the increase in societal ills that no doubt have increased uptake in some populations at the same time).

        • QoT 9.2.1.1

          Yes, but really that is all about your feelings.

          Gosh, well I guess I’ll shut up then because my opinion is just my opinion.

  10. just saying 10

    It’s the ad that makes me want plain packaging. The conceit of the smarmy git suggesting that I should take any sort of action, from visiting a website to, presumably, lobbying my MP to further the commercial interests of any body any time. As for dressing it up as an issue of creative freedom – corporates have far too much freedom, and I don’t like the ways in which they are “creative”.

    • Bill 10.1

      Don’t know how accurate the study is, but the claim is tha :-

      The majority of Māori, Pacific Islands people and those from other ethnic minority groups are functioning below the level of competence in literacy required to effectively meet the demands of everyday life.

      http://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/publications/literacy/5731

      And the demands of every day life include buying stuff…reading labels for example. And smokers are concentrated in what decile? And illiteracy rates are highest in what decile? And so running a scare campaign that identifies a secret fear of a target audience and that incidently ‘reminds’ them to identify as smokers who are a group being harangued is…

  11. ianmac 11

    It is unknown what effect that plain packaging will have on smoker numbers. (Will Cigarette companies bring out fancy cigarette cases so that cigarettes are transfered from plain package to fancy cases?) But the fight for market share will be damaged. Decades ago my sister smoked a more expensive brand in a handsome gold packet when I smoked the cheapest in a red packet. I challenged my sister to tell which cigarette she was smoking in a test. Her confidence was shattered because she could not tell the difference. (I gave up 28 years ago.)

    • Draco T Bastard 11.1

      I challenged my sister to tell which cigarette she was smoking in a test. Her confidence was shattered because she could not tell the difference.

      Really? I could always tell the difference between brands.

      • ianmac 11.1.1

        “Really? I could always tell the difference.”
        That’s what she said Draco. But with brand obscured she was unable to tell the difference. Though those savage French ones were certainly distinctive. I think that it might be like say soap or tea. Different packaging. Same product.

    • felix 11.2

      ianmac, I took part in some market research a few years ago which involved the research company sending me a plain white unlabelled pouch of tobacco every few days with a questionnaire about taste, smokiness, aftertaste, throat hit, hotness etc etc.

      There was one that tasted a little more like Pocket Edition than the others (which I identify as being quite hot, slightly bitter, and generally unpleasant), but the rest were more or less indistinguishable with variations so slight that I could never tell whether it was the tobacco or some other factor that was changing.

      Of course I may well have been sent 9 packs of the same tobacco in a row for all I know.

  12. WARNING: Money talks and all sense walks out of the equation.

    We have had the opportunity recently to observe what is really going on with this issue by comparing it to another that has recently occurred.

    1. The plain packaging issue ~where it is being impressed upon us that “packaging isn’t important”, “it doesn’t won’t affect anything”, yet “curbs the “freedom of expression” for tobacco companies”.

    2. New Zealand All-Blacks Shirts ~we are being told is not an important logo, that the “all-black” shirt, its imagery and reputation that NZ rugby players have built up over the decades which has been identified with the black shirt, is of no consequence, its perfectly o.k for large white lettering to be added. And the people who are disappointed over such a move, who would want the decision to be reversed, would be being overly emotional [or petty] if they were to take such a stand
    ~from observation of current events.

    So which is it?

    Are the tobacco companies being “petty” starting up expensive litigation to push to protect their marketing logos and New Zealanders disgusted by the additional white logo on their country’s rugby shirt are likewise?

    Or Are logos a marketing device built up over years that are “creative” and effective tools for encouraging people to like your “product” which require protection?

    What is going on here is that well paid lawyers are providing arguments to get what the large companies that are paying them require to protect and grow their profits..

    Sense and logic are simply not the issue here. Solely profit motive is.

    It is time that we all see through the “issues” being presented to us and look for what is really being presented to us; the agenda, in this way we can realise that logic, reason and the argument is not of genuine relevance; that knowing the agenda, PROFIT, is.

    To me it looks like the tobacco companies agenda is starting to work: The the first step of standard tactics toward getting a questionable agenda to be achieved is one of dividing opinion. Check.

    • ghostwhowalksnz 12.1

      Its important to remember that advertising isnt classed as ‘freedom of expression’, this is easily seen in that it is highly regulated about what you can and cant say that would be unthinkable when considering private individuals freedom of expression. Thats why you can see actors smoke in movies but not in ads- a loophole tobacco companies exploit.

      So first off claiming your right to advertise as you see fit is bunkum.

      I think that BATNZ didnt go down this road, they merely claimed that restricting their use of their brands infringed their intellectual property.

      • blue leopard 12.1.1

        It is good to have that clarified, ghostwhowalksnz, however it really doesn’t make any difference what the laws are when it comes to uber-paid lawyers, the effects are often the same as having no laws at all. The spirit of the law is, from observation, rarely (if ever…just saying rarely to be fair and allow for the odd exception), rarely gets prioritised over some detail of a technicality.

        Result=those with the largest pockets get their way.

  13. George D 13

    You know what? I don’t care.

    Yes, there is evidence – considerable academic work has gone into studies of tobacco packaging and attitudes towards smoking – but let’s consider for a moment that there is none*.

    So we ban the packaging of a harmful toxic substance that seriously affects all of its regular users and kills half of them. Then we find out. Either it has no effect, and we address tobacco consumption in other ways. Or it has some effect, and tobacco use(rs) declines. The only possible harm (apart from that to the purveyors of death) is that it might mean less investment and consideration of other forms of control. But, considering that we’ve taken up most of these in some form and will continue to strengthen many of them, that’s a fairly weak objection.

    This socialist says go for it.

    *I find straw-men/women rather scratchy when they go down my throat.

    • weka 13.1

      I think there is also the issue that plain packaging on its own might be only minimally effective, but when combined with other strategies it adds to the cumulative effect.
       
      I guess the issue becomes how much of an effect warrants the legislation. Would a 1% decrease in uptake of smoking be worth it? 5%? 10%

  14. QoT 14

    A further comment, inspired by a conversation I had this morning: compare anti-smoking actions to anti-drinking actions.

    We have actually seen change in NZ about people’s attitudes to drink driving. Not because we said “you’re too thick to know what you’re purchasing so we’ll take the branding away”, but because we had a targeted campaign pointing out the obvious evils of drinking and driving – “if you drink and drive you will end up killing your mates”. “If you’re the sober driver and you drink, you’re a shithead because you risked your mates’ lives”. “If you’re still drunk the next morning, you’re going to kill kids waiting for the bus.”

    We made the behaviour unacceptable without telling drinkers (well, except for any ad run by ALAC) “you’re too stupid to make decisions about your behaviour so we’re taking the option away”.

    What do y’all think works better, demonstrating the actual risks of a thing so people can say “hmm, maybe I’ll watch my behaviour and change it” or wagging a finger at them and smacking them on the wrist like they’re a child?

    • There has already been a shift in attitude against smoking, so the ads/info re smoking being bad for you is already having an effect.

      The thing about plain packaging, is that arguing it has no effect is to argue that logos and the marketing involved in them have no effect this can lead to the “interesting” conclusion that all the corporates and numerous businesses who invest money in marketing are wasting their money.

      It seems a bit draconian to me the old wagging a finger and punishment. However if New Zealanders wish for less smokers en masse, I find it even more draconian that some international company can cost the NZ Government huge amounts of money in litigation and perhaps stop them from doing what [perhaps] a majority of NZers wish.

      • Lanthanide 14.1.1

        “The thing about plain packaging, is that arguing it has no effect is to argue that logos and the marketing involved in them have no effect this can lead to the “interesting” conclusion that all the corporates and numerous businesses who invest money in marketing are wasting their money.”

        Yep. The mere fact that the tobacco companies are so against this, means that they can only see a downside to it. It seems to me that having olive packets with a name on them would probably be cheaper to produce in the long-term, so the tobacco companies could save money since everyone is on a level playing field. They also talk about how they’ve invested so much money in their branding and logos so they should get to use them – great, now you guys don’t have to invest all that money, and you can keep it for your shareholders as profits instead! But yet the companies are against it – it must be because they think they’ll lose something.

        That, by itself, is enough reason to continue with the policy.

        If the tobacco companies were all like “ok sure, we’ll voluntarily do that, and now you don’t have to pass the law” I’d start to question whether the policy was going to make any difference. Of course in that case I still wouldn’t care either because we’d have achieved the results we wanted.

        • QoT 14.1.1.1

          The mere fact that the tobacco companies are so against this, means that they can only see a downside to it.

          Because no other industry would object to having this kind of restriction placed on them at all.

          • George D 14.1.1.1.1

            Thankfully, unlike you, I live in a world where we put massive restrictions on the makers of landmines, cluster-bombs, and tobacco.

            • QoT 14.1.1.1.1.1

              Yes, those things are totally comparable.

              As opposed to, say, cars. We know cars have a huge societal/environmental cost, so let’s mandate that all cars must be olive-green. When Toyota complains, we’ll just assume they have some deep, evil reason for it, not because it unnecessarily increases their costs in the name of baseless anti-car hatred.

              • George D

                Where the packaging and form of cars is not incidental to the harm they cause, we regulate. True story.

                • QoT

                  Seriously? Because mag wheels are, you know, purely cosmetic and not built on any evil marketing/branding notions of power, speed, etc. That’s why grannies in Accords all have mag wheels.

                • QoT

                  This is about branding, George. Branding apparently makes cigarettes cool in a way it doesn’t for any other product ever. I can only assume you’d advocate for removing the Mercedes badge off the front of all Mercedes because it might make people buy fewer high-powered sports cars? But apparently not, from your answer. Explain the difference.

                  • George D

                    No, the state does not care about the design of your Mercedes or Lada, because that has nothing to do with the harm that product causes. Except where that design intersects with frontal impact standards, emissions etc.

                    And yes, there’s cause to regulate cars much, much more heavily. Though not for how they look (except where that intersects with potential harm).

                    • QoT

                      I’m seriously confused here, George. Apparently plain packaging makes sense for cigarettes, because the packaging is integral to people’s decisions to purchase, light up a cigarette and inhaling the smoke, but it doesn’t make sense for cars, because the colour and fitout and style of the car isn’t in any way integral to people’s decisions to purchase, start, and drive the car around causing air and noise pollution?

                      Yeah, that’s the kind of logic I want public health policy based on. Not Earth logic.

          • Lanthanide 14.1.1.1.2

            “Because no other industry would object to having this kind of restriction placed on them at all.”

            What’s that got to do with anything?

            That’s like saying injuring geese and having them make loud noises is expected, because when you injure ducks they also make loud noises.

            I don’t care that if you did this to any industry, any industry would complain. I care that if you do it to an industry, they complain because they know they’re going to be disadvantaged.

    • Lanthanide 14.2

      Not sure if you looked at a cigarette packet lately, but they have graphic warnings about the health risks of smoking on them already.

      There’s also the “not our future” anti-smoking campaign on TV that talks about how it sucks etc.

      So, hows about, instead of just doing more of the same, we do something different, and see how that works out, eh?

      • QoT 14.2.1

        Yes, the moment to intervene is definitely after someone’s bought a packet. I think personally you change general attitudes slowly with wide-targeted advertisements, but then I apparently don’t know anything about marketing.

        Also, re: warning labels.

      • Populuxe1 14.2.2

        However I suspect the “not our future” campaign may be self defeating because it’s spokespeople come across as insufferably sanctimonious and in ore or two cases are hypocrites.

        • QoT 14.2.2.1

          That too, Pop. I glazed over that part of Lanth’s answer, but I cannot see the “not our future” campaign being successful, because it’s so, well, try-hard. Any time you’re saying “how do we reach at-risk kids? With Shortland Street actors!!” your public awareness campaign is probably doomed.

    • George D 14.3

      There are differences between alcohol and tobacco, surprisingly. Also, bingo!.

      • QoT 14.3.1

        Gosh, really? I HAD NO IDEA. I guess I thought I was commenting on *approaches* to affect public health issues, but you sure got me, I really just thought that cigarettes are made of vodka.

    • weka 14.4

      We have actually seen change in NZ about people’s attitudes to drink driving. Not because we said “you’re too thick to know what you’re purchasing so we’ll take the branding away
       

      Good grief. We’ve seen massive changes in attitudes towards smoking, specifically because of government interventions. And because alcohol is not inherently addictive, the strategies are going to be different than those for tobacco.
       

      What do y’all think works better, demonstrating the actual risks of a thing so people can say “hmm, maybe I’ll watch my behaviour and change it” or wagging a finger at them and smacking them on the wrist like they’re a child?
       

      If that were the rational for plain packaging I might agree with you. But it’s not. You appear to be arguing against something that doesn’t actually exist. Or making up something to argue against.
       
      The more I read your arguments QoT, the more they seem to be based on “I don’t want to lose my individual freedoms” (or “I don’t want society to lose this individual freedom”). I have some sympathy for that argument in some areas, but plain packaging on tobacco is not really a political cause or right I think worthy of fighting for for.

      • QoT 14.4.1

        My argument is actually based on the idea that we’re implementing plain packaging on no more justification than “it might affect smoking rates”, which seems to me (WARNING: FEELINGS) to be a lot more about punishing smokers than actually intervening in ways which will help.

        It’s actually fuck-all to do with “freedom” and much more to do with wanting some basic consistency in people’s rhetoric (i.e. if smoking is so bad, say you want to ban it. That’s all I’m asking. And then acknowledge that this is just an intermediate step to banning it. Then we can have the fun historical discussion about how banning shit never works anyway, but at least we’ll be being honest about it.)

        • George D 14.4.1.1

          Nah, regulation always causes harm to someone. That’s why libertarians oppose it.

          The rest of us accept those harms as an acceptable price of living in a society.

          • Populuxe1 14.4.1.1.1

            Well you might find rolling over for your betters and tugging your for forelock an “acceptable price of living in a society”, but I find it an oppressive inconvenience that has had no real public consultation and it riddled with woolly thinking.

        • blue leopard 14.4.1.2

          The message has been made pretty clear by the people pushing for tax hikes, hiding displays of tobacco and plain-packaging that they are motivated by a belief that smoking is bad (creates health problems) and that they want it banned eventually (a few years I think).

          I understand plain-packaging is one of a raft of approaches toward this end. Thus the rhetoric is very clear; it is an intermediate step to banning it.

          I wouldn’t know where I stood on completely banning smoking, well, perhaps I do, it is likely to create criminals out of the percentage of people that are unlikely to be able to give up. Apparently stats say there will be this sector (relayed on a television interview on the subject-“Close Up’ I think). Seems too draconian. Seems better to discourage rather than ban completely.

          I do not, however, think that the logos, colours and marketing involved with the packaging have no effect on people finding smoking desirable. Once you are hooked, perhaps not so much, however enticing new smokers, yes.

  15. Dv 15

    My parents offered me 100 pound if I didn’t smoke until I was 21.
    It worked I didn’t smoke and never have.

    We did the same with our kids, but $1000 and 25 years. They do not smoke.

  16. Ad 16

    Totally agree with the post. Sick of patrician wowsers like Zetetic. Give progressives a bad name.

    Nordmeyer tried something harsh with alcohol and his entire government got thrown out. Real basic political management was absent. Not saying you shouldn’t spend political capital, but packaging isn’t what I’d spend it on.

    Taking consumer choice away is deeply invasive – customers at garages I see are very specific about the brand of cigarettes they want, even though the product is locked away in a cupboard. They are clear in their mind their allegiance, and why should any government deny brand allegiance?

    I am interested in New York Mayor Bloomberg’s volume limits on drinks – particularly if there are positive results. He concentrated on volume, through the number of servings. This did not require stopping consumers from choosing the brand they drink.

    I am also fairly bored with moral panics requiring massive state intervention into foods. Our New Zealand food regulations are generally fantastic.

    I prefer long term social marketing – such as has been done very successfully here for drinking and driving, mental illness, and smoking. New Zealand governments blue and red have a strong track record of success there. None of them denied brand choice.

    For the record I smoke 1 cigar per year, and only when something really good has happened in my life. If the retailer cannot prove the brand of that cigar, very specifically, they lose the sale.

    I know what I want, and I am entitled to choose it.

    • weka 16.1

      “I know what I want, and I am entitled to choose it.”
       
      We have all sorts of laws that say otherwise. And those laws didn’t originate with the big bang, they were introduced at some point by society. Like the current one.
       
      “If the retailer cannot prove the brand of that cigar, very specifically, they lose the sale.”
       
      I thought plain packaging allowed the brand to be named but only in certain type and size. No logos, colours, images etc.

      • QoT 16.1.1

        Yes, which is another thing which makes this pointless. Are people magically going to stop being loyal to Marlboro Lights* because the words “Marlboro” and “Lights” are in black Helvetica?

        *I apologise to my friend who smokes Marlboro Lights, it’s just the name that keeps popping into my head. Which I guess means I have to start smoking them now.

        • George D 16.1.1.1

          Yes.

          Brand identification among existing smokers will lessen.

          Brand association among new and prospective smokers will decrease.

          Both of these presently exist (as demonstrated by research). The expected outcome is that by lessening these uptake of smoking will decrease, and it will have a small impact on existing smokers.

          • QoT 16.1.1.1.1

            Holy shit, people who buy products which are supplied by multiple companies which have thus instituted brand and marketing strategies to attract consumers, have developed loyalties to different brands and products within those brands?

            Shit, I’m so glad this only applies to tobacco and no other product in the universe. Meanwhile, I note Marmite sales on Trademe continue to prove popular.

            Meanwhile, your assertion still contains the assumption that packaging is *causative* in *commencing smoking*, after which point the Evil Branding takes control of people’s heads. As my original post stated, still waiting for the research on THAT.

            • George D 16.1.1.1.1.1

              You know what? When Marmite is proven addictive and kills half its users, we’ll regulate the fuck out of that.

              • George D

                your assertion still contains the assumption that packaging is *causative* in *commencing smoking*,

                No, it’s not the be all and end all. Nicotine is far more responsible for continued smoking among new smokers.

                But here, I found an article for you.

                • QoT

                  Gosh, only USD$30 to actually read the full article, how kind of you. I’m especially inclined to just take the abstract at face value giving the intellectual honesty you’ve shown in quoting me talking about COMMENCING smoking and then responding about CONTINUED smoking. These are obviously the same thing and it’s just my silly ladybrain/BAT brainwashing/lack of brand knowledge which is getting in the way of epiphany.

      • Ad 16.1.2

        Of course there are laws, and that statement in isolation was hyperbolic. But it is my principle. The Leviathan state never wants to give regulation up, it always accretes it to itself. I specifically noted my confidence in our current foods regulatory regime.

        I confess not to have ever tried to buy cigarettes, so not sure on that finer point of naming.

        QoT appreciated your response. Paint the world grey, let text alone reign tyrannic. Let the entire world be unpackaged. Neo just woke up from the phantasmagoric world of black suits.

        Going down the full AdBusters logic, we would be unpackaged and free. But like most committed idealists, success tends to occur when half the world is locked up, and the other half free.

        Try this: liberals of this plain-smocked ilk are like Protestants of old: trust nothing visible, trust only that within your own mind and it’s moral choices. The Catholic sensibility operating is like small c conservatives: do what you want, and face the consequences.

        So to push my own logic out there to gender, I also oppose the burka.

    • Dv 16.2

      >>Nordmeyer tried something harsh with alcohol

      And tobacco.

  17. Let me put it this way, the ultimate reason is human stupidity. People want to smoke poison that kill them, people also like to smoke/take drugs that kill them. Even if the day comes when no one smokes tobacco, hard drugs will still be here. I think New Zealand could easily implement plain packaging, but it won’t undermine the main cause (which is that people like to do stupid things to and with their bodies).

    • Populuxe1 17.1

      I think all books on political ideology and philosophy should come in plain wrappers because they tend to get idiots worked up

  18. Rijab 18

    Apologies if I’m slightly off topic, but as I’ve been following discussions at the WTO surrounding Australia’s move to legislate plain packaging and have done some research on the issue, I thought I’d share some information for anyone interested.

    An interesting take on the function of branding on tobacco products can be found in an internal document of tobacco company Liggett and Myers, which states that “the primary job of the package is to create a desire to purchase and try. To do this, it must look new and different enough to attract the attention of the consumer.”
    Australia’s rationale for introducing plain packaging, which their representative stated during a WTO committee meeting recently, is that:

    “Australia was implementing this legislation in the interests of promoting public health and in particular in the area of reducing tobacco consumption. She said that three million Australians still smoked, and 15,000 of them died every year causing a staggering bill of $A36 billion to the Australian taxpayer. In that context, her delegation was confident that, as part of a comprehensive package of tobacco reforms, the bill would make an effective contribution to reducing smoking, and thereby reduce the health impact of smoking on Australian individuals and the community at large.”

    The Dominican Republic (with aprox 36,000 people employed in the tobacco industry) has filed action against Australia at the WTO which will soon go to arbitration. Their position is that:

    “[T]hese measures would not succeed in promoting public health goals. On the Contrary, it was expected that they would have serious negative consequences. Tobacco consumption might increase, instead of decreasing, as prices fell because all tobacco products would look virtually the same. Furthermore, plain packaging would make it easier to counterfeit products and market them.”

    and

    “Firstly, Australia contended that the measure was justified by public health objectives, referring to a number of studies. However, the scientific evidence underpinning the measure had been challenged in public documents submitted to the Australian Government, and Australia had not yet fully explained the scientific basis of its measure. Secondly, Australia had at its disposal other measures that would be more effective to attaining the stated objective without being detrimental to the competitive opportunities of imported tobacco products. In this respect, Australia had never satisfactorily explained why such alternative measures had never been contemplated.”

    It is true that there is no hard empirical data to support the belief that plain packaging will have the intended effect, however as the Australian WTO representative stated, “tobacco packaging was one of the last remaining forms of tobacco advertising in Australia and the plain packaging legislation was the next logical step in Australia’s tobacco control efforts.”

    Under WTO Agreements, Australia does not need to have hard scientific data to breach obligations in the interests of public health, but it does need to prove the measure is necessary. It’s difficult to say which way it will go, but the wider ramifications of this dispute will be significant.

    New Zealand will simply piggyback on whatever the outcome is, so thanks to our friends across the ditch for doing most of the hard work and carrying the risk. At this stage, as far as I know, New Zealand has filed exploratory papers at the WTO indicating the intention to legislate plain packaging.

    Whether we are capable of passing any future legislation to protect public health without facing stiff penalties at the WTO is really the most important issue here. I don’t think the fear that has been generated around other industries is justified; the bar that we must meet is already extremely high with regard to plain packaging on tobacco products, so in future we will still have to prove any measure is ‘necessary’ to protect public health.

    If anyone is interested, some research has been carried out surrounding the trade implications of plain packaging from both sides. These two reports articulate the main trade-related arguments against plain packaging at the WTO:

    http://www.smoke-free.ca/trade-and-tobacco/Resources/Gervais.pdf

    http://www.smoke-free.ca/plain-packaging/documents/industry-responses/LALIVE_Analysis_23_July_2009.pdf

    This research puts forward convincing arguments for why plain packaging does not breach Australia’s WTO obligations:
    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1874593

  19. millsy 19

    Plain packaging and the hiding of retail displays is taking anti-smoking measures to an unacceptable extreme. Same with proposals to ban smoking in cars and open areas. Even proposals to hike tobacco taxes to the point where you have to pay $20 for a pack of smokes is getting a bit much (though I support tobacco taxes as a way of meeting the health costs associated with smoking).

    Im getting sick of these do-gooders who lecture smokers about bad it is, and how they shouldnt be smoking, its evil, blah blah blah.

  20. Rusty Shackleford 20

    If I were a currently strong tobacco producer/brand, I would be all for plain packaging as it entrenches the market that persists in 2012 and that will pretty much be the market that persists for the rest of time. How are new brands or producers supposed to gain a foot hold if it is damn near impossible for them to make potential consumers aware that they even exist?

    • QoT 20.1

      Believe me, Rusty, almost every smoker I know who I’ve talked about plain packaging with – and plenty of non-smokers – have come up with the same theory.

      For those tragic teen smokers who we’re so desperate to help, I can’t say I’m convinced that giving them a plain box to which they can apply their own stickers/tags to is a winning move.

  21. While I agree this probably won’t help reduce smoking significantly and think it’s about as low priority as possible, I really won’t mind it. either, and honestly, I’d be quite happy if all forms of advertising for cigarettes and alcohol were completely banned.

  22. Adrian 22

    I would love to know how many of the proponents of plain-packaging who also have a justifiable hate-on with tobacco companies are also supporters of weed decriminalisation?
    The local tabacco companies are anti this plain packaging move not because they think they can intice more to smoke ( they know this quite rightly is a lost cause ) but it is about ” share “. Most advertising of almost any product is about how much of an existing market you can command.
    Most markets are already established, either by ability to pay ( most can not buy a new car for instance ), or inclination i.e to smoke, drink or eat. It is the share of these markets that are of the most importance to producers mainly because it is bloody expensive to convince people to start to do something that they are not normally inclined to do.

    • Lanthanide 22.1

      I support weed decriminalisation on the basis that our police are wasting too much time chasing and locking up people who are using a drug that is less harmful to them than tobacco or alcohol, which are legal. Also it may lead the way to legalising it and taxing it for the benefit of the state.

      If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em (and tax ’em).

    • Daveosaurus 22.2

      Legalise it; regulate it; tax the fuck out of it. Just like fags and booze.

      Or politicians could be consistent and subject fags, booze and weed to the same strict testing regime that they’re subjecting party pills to. …. Consistency from politicians? Nah, that will never happen…

    • fatty 22.3

      I’m a proponent of plain packaging, and for decriminalisation of weed

  23. Now look it, everyone talks as if plain packaging of cigarettes is some new tool to wipe out smoking, forgetting that smoking has been demonised for some 30 years. Plain packaging is just the next logical step in eliminating smoking from society.
    First the advertising was banned, then the price went up, then the price went up, the paradigm was changed and smokers suddenly found themselves in the cold as smoking was banned from bars and pubs.
    Society changed its attitude towards smoking.

    Plain packaging is the latest method of removing tobacco from our society. You can’t view it as a single action, it is part of a long term strategy to get rid of smoking.

  24. Thanks for this post, it’s spot on. I particularly like this bit:

    And I think the “slippery slope” warning is too little too late, because if we don’t see the same arguments being put forward for junk food in the next few years I’ll eat fat-free cheese.

    You fucking bet. We now seem to have most of the middle class thinking that if you don’t share their views on what you should eat, drink, smoke or whatever, the govt should Do Something About It. Fuck them and the horses they rode in on.

  25. tracey 25

    If plain packaging wouldn’t affect the number of people smoking…

    why spend millions opposing it; and
    why spend millions having it int he first place?

    Perhaps if market share was impacted, this might have an impact itself? That is on the commcerial viability of some companies?

    • tracey 25.1

      sorry repeating Lat’s comments.

      Surely it’s a sign their own research shows their campaignis failing to gain traction that they now escalated to frightening people that their alcohol might go plain too.

      I have no problem with that. I’m pretty sure majajuna still comes in just plain plastic bags…

  26. handle 26

    Enjoyed this smart blogpost about what BAT’s campaign is really designed to do: http://morgue.isprettyawesome.com/?p=3133

    Seems to be working exactly as intended in some quarters, just like decades of previous tobacco spin did.

  27. SPC 27

    The distinction with tobacco is the addiction to nicotine, thus brand reinforces the addiction. This makes the brand vulnerable to legislative action.

    The companies have what is called brand value on their books, loss of their brand value via plain packaging means writing down this value.

    Cue the TPP, where the Americans are seeking legislative restraint on any government action that impacts on company value/profits. Brand is one are where companies have common interests and big tobacco is seeking collective solidarity.

    We made progress on drink driving by testing of drivers and court sanction, more so than public opinion. One lead the other.

    This shows the correct route for tobacco consumption decline – we restrict sales to the chemist and via prescription to registered addicts. Sales via a form of ration card (to redcue level of harm and make giving it up easier). If we restrict the ability to register to those born before 1994, then we will have a new generation with no legal access to the nicotine in this form – that connects it to a cancer causing carcinogen in the tobacco (if it was a food it would have already been banned).

  28. rodney 28

    I bought a can of quick drying spray paint. Sprayed the front and back in my favourite colour and the problem was gone in 15 minutes. Plain packaging is a joke. One can will easily do a couple of hundred packs. $3.40

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