Des King: Government’s plan to eliminate smoking – it’s just plain stupid

May 9, 2012 4 Comments »

Des King questions if the Government’s plain packaging plans will stop young people from smoking

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Will retailing cigarettes in plain packaging seriously stop people, and especially the young, from smoking?

The Government, in the guise of its faux messianic health minister, thinks so and is currently inviting various informed parties to debate the proposition. Presumably, that’ll extend as far as canvassing opinion from the packaging industry itself. The conclusion has, I suspect, been reached already by Andrew Lansley’s bonding group or whichever cabal it is that determines NHS policy these days, and is a done deal.

It’s now 15 months and counting since I last inhaled anything more potentially stimulating than fresh air. Do I miss it?

What do you think? Still, thankfully ‘Mad Men’ is back on the box so there is the vicarious pleasure of a weekly remote controlled passive smoking fix.

While I’m not expecting the call, I would guess that fighting packaging’s corner within this process of joint consultation is not quite as clear-cut as it might appear to be. On the one hand, I’d be honour- bound to support the premise that on pack adornment is the marketing strategy du jour when it comes to selling a brand; on the other, there’d be an understandable aversion to being supportive of anything that might be labelled as an indirect or inadvertent conduit for cancer.

Do people really start smoking cigarettes because of the seductive allure of the cartons in which they’re packaged?

More to the point, how alluring is this design creativity anyway? It often strikes me as being a wishy-washy successor to the glitz and glamour reflected via the fag packets of my own dimly remembered youth.

I started smoking because it was a more palatable form of rule-breaking than, say, hot-wiring cars. I imagine the impetus is much the same for most new recruits today. While the John Player’s mariner or the rather camp cavalier who fronted up on Passing Clouds were all part and parcel of the experience, it was what was and is contained within those almost plainly paper-wrapped coffin nails that kept you coming back for more.

It’s my bet that the implicit notoriety created by the combined banning of onpack text and graphics, and then not even displaying them in-store, will be just as likely to encourage the purchase of cigarettes as to deter it. Scaling back on the packaging is not the prescribed cure-all; rather, it’s simply a matter of ‘education, education, education’.

That, however, being one thing in triplicate but an altogether trickier can of worms to open up in practice, it’s far easier and prospectively vote-catching to dodge the message and instead shoot the messenger. Thinking about the inanity of it all makes me quite stressful. Have you got a light, boy?