AUSTRALIAN AND NEW ZEALAND JOURNAL OF PUBLIC HEALTH
© 2012 The Authors. ANZJPH © 2012 Public Health Association of Australia
nternationally, smoking remains a serious public health problem. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimatesthat deaths rom smoking will rise to more than eight million by 2030 and reach one billion in the 21
Governmentsaround the world have responded to the threat tobacco poses byadopting progressive measures that will reduce smoking initiation, prompt cessation and lower overall smoking rates. One suchstrategy, tobacco ‘denormalisation’, exposes tobacco as a toxic product peddled by an unscrupulous industry and undermines thesocial cachet o smoking.
Denormalisation rerames smoking associally unacceptable and challenges the connotations o glamour,sophistication and ruggedness that tobacco brands have used toattract young people. Over time, denormalisation reduces smoking’saspirational attributes, undermines the value tobacco brands deliver to smokers and reduces tobacco consumption.
Plain packaging extends this approach by moving beyond smokeree social marketing campaigns to ocus directly on tobacco packages, which represent a tangible symbol o the emotional benets smokers derive rom ‘their’ brand.
These measures refectincreased knowledge o the role packaging plays in promotingsmoking, the meticulous research undertaken into branding and packaging by tobacco companies, and the tobacco industry’sgrowing reliance on packaging as promotion in traditional massmedia becomes more restricted.
The tobacco industry has strongly opposed plain packaging; itargues this measure lacks proportionality and supporting evidence,and claims it will impose unair costs on manuacturers.
WhenAustralia proposed plain packaging, tobacco companies launched marketing campaigns entitled ‘No Nanny State’ and ‘I Deserve to be Heard’ to muster opposition to the legislation. Philip Morrisadopted the same tactic when launching the ‘My Opinion Counts’site in New Zealand to coincide with the release o the government’sconsultation document on plain packaging. These campaigns drawon deep-seated concerns over measures that curtail individualreedoms and suggest plain packaging will stigmatise smokers, whoare depicted as marginalised and disenranchised.However, when these initiatives ailed to elicit the Australian public’s sympathy the tobacco companies moved to the legal arenaand introduced suits challenging the constitutionality o plain packaging and its compliance with international trade agreements.Because not all countries may have Australia’s resolve in the aceo well-unded and vocal opposition, these moves could deter theintroduction o plain packaging elsewhere. In these situations,strong public support may provide politicians with an additionalmandate to act.To understand tobacco companies’ arguments and publicsympathy or these, we analysed two claims they have repeatedlymade: as packaging only promotes brand switching, plain packagingwill neither persuade smokers to quit, nor dissuade young peoplerom starting to smoke; and plain packaging misappropriates brand assets and denies air use o these. We reviewed the public healthcounter-arguments: that a toxic product such as tobacco requires prominent warnings without distracting brand imagery; and thatattractive branding promotes experimentation and continued smoking. To test how the public regard these claims, we conducted a survey that compared New Zealand smokers’ and non-smokers’ perceptions o plain packaging, and examined their views on policymeasures.
Tobacco branding: implications, effects and rights
Brands unction by linking aspirations, attributes and valuesto products and services, which consumers buy as much or their symbolic value as or their utility. Smokers use the symbols and imagery evoked by brand attributes to construct and communicatean identity. Branding thus enables tobacco manuacturers to sellstatus, social acceptance and glamour, rather than a mere nicotinedelivery device.Internal documents available as part o US legal settlementsreveal tobacco companies’ reliance on branding’s symbolic valuesand expose their meticulous research into pack designs and brand imagery. Industry documents also make explicit the importancetobacco companies have placed on recruiting young adult smokers by developing brands that appeal to them. Furthermore, theseonce-condential documents illustrate the growing importanceo packaging as a communications medium in markets wheretraditional mass media channels are restricted.Given how brands unction, and the research undertaken toensure their eectiveness, tobacco companies’ reaction against plain packaging is predictable. Either directly or through ront groupsand consultants, they have argued there is no evidence that plain
Strong public support for plain packagingof tobacco products
Janet Hoek , Philip Gendall, Ninya Maubach
Department o Marketing, University o Otago, New Zealand
Department o Public Health, University o Otago, New Zealand
Tobacco and Smoking