Cigarette branding: cue huff and puff

The government is about to launch a consultation on removing the branding from cigarette packets. Will that really knock the wind out of sales?

by Dave Waller
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012
The government  banned tobacco displays in large shops earlier this month, and smaller shops will have to follow suit by 2015. This after bans on vending machine sales, increasing the age at which a person can legally buy ciggies and the ban on smoking in public. It¹s all a far cry from the 80s, when F1 cars used to flash bright with cigarette logos, happiness was a cigar called Hamlet, and Silk Cut did whatever Silk Cut did in an oh-so mysterious way.

But taking the branding off packets is another step entirely, and as you'd imagine the tobacco companies aren't going down without a fight. Australia is currently the only country that's taken steps to introduce plain packaging ­ although even that is subject to a legal challenge by manufacturers. It's hard to imagine them reacting any differently here.

The tobacco industry is now suggesting that blank packets will make counterfeiting easier, adding that there¹s no evidence that changing the branding will make any difference. Cigarettes are physically addictive, after all. Puffing back for the government side, an 'open-minded' health secretary Andrew Lansley told The Times he believed attractive packaging helped recruit smokers from a young age.

Lansley added that the government wanted tobacco companies to have 'no business' in the UK, which is kind of hard to believe. When something brings in £11bn in VAT and excise duty annually, that's a fairly handy sum even when you aren't strapped for cash.

It may be hard to imagine, but a blank cigarette pack future may not be so far away. And remember: pubs that smell of nothing but spilt beer and the occasional whiff of BO seemed so far-fetched before the ban in 2007. Similarly, we may soon become accustomed to fag packets in dark olive green. The Australian public was asked for their least attractive colour and that was the winner...

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