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World No Tobacco Day – The Answer is Plain

Despite efforts to control it, tobacco use results in thousands of premature deaths in Europe and it remains a major cause of several respiratory diseases. Friday is World No Tobacco Day (31 May) and the theme this year is to "Ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship". In this context, Ireland's government has announced this week its intention to introduce plain standardised packaging.

ERS has consistently called for larger health warnings and standard packs to help prevent smoking and we applaud the Irish government for taking this courageous step and encourage other countries to follow Ireland's lead.

Ireland is currently leading the Presidency of the Council of the European Union and it hoped this announcement will have a positive impact on negotiations on the EU's Tobacco Products Directive which is currently passing through the European Council and Parliament. ERS and in particular the Tobacco Control Committee, led by Prof. Christina Gratziou will continue to work hard to advocate for the largest possible health warnings to be introduced by members of the European Parliament and Europe's governments.

There is strong evidence that standardised packaging can reduce the attractiveness and appeal of tobacco products, can increase the noticeability and effectiveness of health warnings and messages, and that it reduces the use of design techniques that may mislead consumers about the harmfulness of tobacco products.i,ii Furthermore, research shows that children find plain packs (with large graphic health warnings) less appealing and are less likely to be misled by the sophisticated marketing techniques designed to make smoking attractive to youngsters.iii In addition, the tobacco industry denies the power of branding regarding packaging design but at the same time, is using the marketing techniques tempting youth and is tenaciously holding on to package branding.iv

The answer to these marketing techniques targeted at youth is plain; as the Irish Minister for Health has pointed out "the introduction of standardised packaging will remove the final way for tobacco companies to promote their deadly product. Cigarette packets will no longer be a mobile advertisement for the tobacco industry".

An informative video on the power that cigarettes packaging has on young children produced by Cancer Research UK:

world-no-tobacco-day-video

 


i Plain packaging of tobacco products: a review of the evidence, Cancer Council Victoria, August 2011

 

ii Plain Tobacco Packaging: A Systematic Review, : Institute for Social Marketing & CRUK Centre for Tobacco Control Research,
Stirling Management School, University of Stirling & the Open University, 2012 and "A review of the science base to support the development of health warnings for tobacco packages," researched conducted by Sambrook Research International, May 2009

iii Cancer Research UK, Press Release: "More than 200,000 UK children start smoking every year"

iv See: Philip Morris (New Zealand) Limited, A response to the Ministry of Health Consultation on Plain Packaging of Tobacco Products, 5 October 2012

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