Tobacco companies lost an appeal against government plans to force them all to use generic packaging with health warnings on the side. They said it was effectively theft of intellectual property so if nothing else, they should be compensated (their barrister even used the argument that slave owners were compensated when slavery was abolished – idiotic).
One of their key arguments, trotted out 15 years or so ago when cigarette advertising was banned, was that these things don’t have any effect on consumption. But as Jamie Doward notes in The Observer (my italics):
As a cigarette packet designer, John Digianni, explains in an interview on the tobacco industry website Tobacco Today: “A cigarette package is part of a smoker’s clothing, and when he saunters into a bar and plunks it down, he makes a statement about himself. When a user displays a badge product, this is witnessed by others, providing a living testimonial endorsement of the user on behalf of that brand and product.”
Boring old packaging, it transpires, is not so boring after all.
The court was shown what seemed to be a normal pack of Benson & Hedges cigarettes that went on sale in 2006. To open the pack, the consumer needed to slide a tray containing the cigarettes out of its side. Printed on the tray was an aphorism attributed to GK Chesterton: “I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice and then going away and doing the exact opposite.” Japan Tobacco International, owner of the Benson & Hedges brand in the UK, credited the packaging innovation with a near 47% year-on-year rise in sales.
Cigarette manufacturers acknowledge that such innovations boost sales among adults. However, they vigorously deny their products are targeted at young people. Yet the court was shown clear evidence of how even very young children can be drawn to cigarette packaging. A video made by Cancer UK, in which young children discussed the look of various packs, brought home the point forcefully. One girl, around six or seven years of age, was delighted with the pink packaging of a particular brand. “It’s actually quite pretty,” she said excitedly. A young boy described a yellow pack as “fun” and declared: “It makes you feel almost happy by looking at it.”
It is hard to see children of a similar age enthusing about the new-look packets – drab cartons adorned with gruesome images of people with smoking-related diseases.