Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image

Should tobacco be sold in standardised packs? The answer is plain

Plain, standardised cigarette pack

A plain, standardised cigarette pack

Today we’ve publicly launched our new campaign: “The Answer is Plain”. We want to help raise awareness of the Government consultation into the future of tobacco packaging.

As announced a couple of weeks ago, the Government is discussing whether to replace brightly coloured and slickly designed packs with ones of uniform size, shape and colours, with large picture warnings on the front and back.

While it’s more accurate to call this ‘standardised’ packaging, it’s more commonly referred to as plain packs or plain packaging.

We strongly back this, and believe it will help reduce the appeal of tobacco to young people.

English composer George Lloyd once said: “The ancient Greeks have a knack of wrapping truths in myths.” Something similar could be said about tobacco packaging.

The colours, images, fancy fonts and glitzy designs wrap tobacco in a myth of coolness, a myth that it’s a product that promises pleasure, and the myth that smoking isn’t harmful.

The packaging helps hide and distract from the truth that tobacco will kill half of all long-term smokers. It’s a product full of poisons that harm those who smoke and those around them. Packs provide a veil behind which lies a devastating truth – more than 100,000 UK deaths every year.

We’ve released two things today that will help lift this veil. One is a report – The Packaging of Tobacco Products – which provides a review of tobacco industry documents that reveal its strategy around packaging as well as research into how packaging affects young people’s attitudes to tobacco.

The second is a short film which shows different groups of children talking about cigarette packs.

Both the report and the film provide reasons to end the ‘packet racket’ around tobacco.

Brand power

It’s hard-hitting stuff when you realise that every one of these kids is giving positive feedback about the packs. Pack designs are appealing and attractive to children.

Some people may not believe there’s a connection between the way tobacco is packaged and youth smoking. We say: read the report and watch the video to see the impact of packs on how children think about cigarettes.

Loud and outraged voices will inevitably argue against changing tobacco packs, voices that will say there is no evidence this will reduce smoking rates, that this isn’t legal, it’s the nanny state gone mad, this will turn the UK into a smugglers paradise.

We say that tobacco is uniquely dangerous. There is no safe level of smoking. Smoking kills and we should be doing all we can to make sure that the power of advertising is not used to lure another generation into a lethal addiction.

Some people may also question why we – a research organisation – are supporting plain packaging. It’s simple: our mission is to beat cancer, and smoking is the single biggest preventable cause of the disease. Preventing the next generation of smokers is vital to save lives in the future.

Our work has already been instrumental in helping reduce smoking rates in the UK. We helped fund the first study to show the link between smoking and lung cancer. It was the British Doctors Study, which was first published in 1952 and lasted for 50 years.

This landmark study helped changed attitudes, shape health policy, and ultimately was key in lowering the tobacco toll.

Support our campaign

Support our campaign against the ‘silent salesman’

The Answer is Plain campaign continues what started so long ago. More than 11,000 of our supporters have already backed the campaign. We hope even more will help bring about the end of the tobacco industry’s ‘silent salesman’ – the branded cigarette packet.

Please share the video, show your friends and family, and discuss the issue. It’s an important one and one we believe is worthwhile.

You can visit our campaign page and sign up to support plain packs.

We know that plain packs won’t stop everyone from smoking, but it will give millions of children one less reason to start smoking. And smoking is so dangerous that even a very small effect would save hundreds if not thousands of lives each year.


Paul Thorne is a press officer at Cancer Research UK

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>