Plain packaging on products- might make you smoke but good for your pocket.

9 March 2012

cigarette boxThe Government are fiddling again, and right now they are poised to announce a public consultation on "plain packaging" for tobacco products. The idea is that, with all cigarettes in plain white boxes, there will be no brand recognition, advertising will become pointless and smoking will no longer be cool. But are they right?

In anticipation of this consultation, UK-based London Economics did some surveying and testing of 3,000 people and offered them a range of products, including crisps, cigarettes, chocolate, beer, bottled water, ice-cream and toothpaste. They tested consumers preferences under various scenarios in which combinations of information like price, brand name, brand imagery, product information or advertising were presented, and the results were consistent across the majority of products, for both smokers and non-smokers alike.

The "comprehensive" study showed that plain packaging would likely result in consumers switching from premium brands to cheaper products. This is good news. You can now legitimately go and buy that cheap cereal/coffee/gin you’ve always wanted to safe in the knowledge that your taste buds are wrong and your pocket is right. Just ask Aldi.

"Our analysis suggests that packaging imagery is a source of information that helps consumers differentiate between alternative product characteristics," says Dr. Gavan Conlon, a Partner at London Economics. "If consumers can't differentiate between brands in the market, they opt for cheaper brands, whether it's beer, cigarettes or almost any other product.”

The boffins went on to conclude that, if plain packaging means falling prices, then everyone will suddenly start smoking, because it will be so ridiculously cheap. “If manufacturers respond by competing on price to maintain market share, prices may decline. In simple economic terms, when prices decline the demand increases and that's what might occur with the introduction of plain packaging" finished Dr. Conlon, waving his cigarette enigmatically.

So is the Government so wrong on this? Previous research studies had shown that plain packaging would have a positive effect on smoking cessation. London Economics pooh-poohed previous research claiming it “relies on statements of intention of what people might do, rather than analysing people's actual behaviour”.

As the report points out, reducing smoking rates should be the objective of any public health policy, advising governments to “base policy on robust evidence, and exercise some caution in interpreting the headline conclusions of policy-related research.”

Hmm. Perhaps they should also exercise caution, and practice their surprised face, when research funded by none other than Philip Morris International Inc. suggests that plain packaging on cigarettes is a bad thing…

TOPICS:   Health


  • daniel
    Probably be true if the majority of the cost of fags wasn't duty/vat... But as it is (afaik) there isn't going to be a great deal of space to compete on...
  • An O.
    cant believe after reading all that all i can think to comment is... BOOM!!! fucking friday ...
  • Incapable B.
    I think I've crapped myself.
  • Antony W.
    Why not come out honestly and put a notice on every plain packet. "Smoking these cigaretes will affect the treatment you may need from the NHS, up to the point where treatment might be refused for certain conditions"
  • Zleet
    My local Co-op has installed black screens in front of the cigarettes that just have Tobacco on them in plain white letters. Makes them look all minimalist and cool, like the opening credits of Lost. May take up smoking as I assume I'll also look cool now. If they (government) really wanted people to quit they should make it a requirement that each time you buy cigarettes you get a full force kick in the balls (or whatever female equivalent), although I assume some people are into that and would consider the price a bargain.
  • Inspector G.
    I'm not sure why the government is fiddling, smoking is the solution to the future pensions crisis.
  • Sawyer
    I've never understood why they can't just tax unhealthy things to fund the resulting cost to the health service. Kinda like bundling a health insurance policy against smoking-related diseases into the cost of the cigarettes. I have no idea whether the current tax rate already covers that, or whether it'd push fags up to £50/packet, but either way it'd take the need for anti-smoking campaigns, and let people choose for themselves for a change.
  • Boris
    The tax more than covers the additional costs to the health service old bean. The reduced life expectancy alone saves a bundle on pensions but tax pulls in well over a grand a year per smoker too. If anything we really should be encouraging smokers to smoke much more giving bigger tax returns and making sure they die off much sooner - before they retire at all! Of course there are costs for "sick days" and all of that to take into account but remember that the poor (especially unemployed) tend to smoke more heavily so it's not as big a problem as you would think. It really only kicks in in your fifties and early sixties. Remember, next time you get a CT; fag money build that machine. What a hoot!
  • Boris
    Oh, I have private health care as part of my benefits package; wouldn't want to be a burden on the taxpayer. I haven't touched a fag since boarding school anyway.
  • Doris
    Boris you dolt! I can't believe you didn't use "What a wheeze!" Livingston will be spinning in his grave at that schoolboy error.
  • Mike H.
    Make them look like iPhones, everyone will think you're a cunt then.
  • Dick
    Buy old cigarette boxes now. There will be a large resale market on ebay in future, when people want to keep their unbranded cigarettes inside an old B&H packet.
  • ohthehypocrisy
    I wonder how much of our money went into this bullshit / government fiddling.
  • Soph
    This will make people go to door to door buying fags. Illegal smuggled in ones which are usually mixed up with wood shavings and all sorts. I think if you are going to smoke, you are better off buying them from a shop. You never realise how much smoking stinks when you give up.

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