In the U.K, plain packaging of cigarettes has always been touted as an impressive tool for minimizing smoking, but so far, it has appeared to be a dud that has achieved almost nothing. Commonly, the facts on the ground never seem to reflect what the parliamentarians claim could be achieved by another control measure of tobacco every second day. It is the same case with the plain packaging, which hasn’t yielded any decrease in any smoking rate across the United Kingdom.
But it is not a problem of the U.K. only, as plain packaging has failed recently in Thailand as well. Thailand had a string of mostly ineffective anti-smoking legislation over the years, after which, they introduced plain packaging last year. Now today, we know for a fact that cigarette packets without any colours and imagery are no different than the ones with all the colours, images, and branding.
Smokers Will Smoke Regardless
Be it custom cigarette boxes, or dull and plain cigarette packaging, smokers got to smoke, and nothing changes this. Ask any shopkeeper around with the cigarettes about his sales, and he will never report that there has been any decrease in his average sales of cigarettes. Instead, there is always a continuously growing slope of smokers, and thus, sales of cigarettes.
But while when we have consistently portrayed tobacco as a universal demon, governments all across the globe keep ignoring a whole phalanx of many other products that significantly impact the statistics of public health. There is not a single product in the world other than tobacco, which, under any legislation, is offered in plain packaging.
You can understand this better with imagining a situation where all the dangerous products – starting from wines, beers, and other heavily processed items containing trans-fats, chemical additives, and preservatives must be retailed in dull and plain containers with no brand names and a uniform font containing warnings. Doesn’t make sense? It is precisely what is happening in so many countries regarding cigarettes. After the U.K, the next countries which are expected to join this nonsense are Canada, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and Turkey. Following their experiment, there will be even more countries jumping into this bandwagon of zero-results.
What Has Plain Packaging Achieved?
If there has to be a one-word answer, for customers, it will be NOTHING, and for retailers, it will be a mere bothersome inconvenience. Honestly, it has only excelled in fostering the inconvenience for the businesses, and there is not a single advantage that could compensate it.
In this matter, the words of a street shopkeeper seem to be making more sense than those of the parliament, which makes the situation even more ironic.
Brand Damage Needs To Be Discussed More!
Cautious and tight-lipped, there is also an aspect of brand damage in between all this fiasco of plain packaging, and we need to talk more about this. Brand owners often have invested years and decades in building the brand, let alone the millions of pounds that went with that. Plain packaging and its standardized font and imagery requirement unfairly nullify all the hard work of brands. Once the plain packaging is introduced, it becomes impossible for brands to go back to their worth of brand even if the plain packaging should suddenly be rescinded.
Cigarette boxes in the U.K. always had a specific picture affiliated with it, and you could tell about a brand by just seeing the colour of the pack. It is, however, no longer a case, and all those brands that you grew up knowing have almost wiped off due to the plain packaging.
Results of Plain Packaging in Australia.
Studies conducted in Australia bluntly described the five years of plain packaging as the ‘’five years of failure’’, and it couldn’t have been saying any better. The study also suggested that since the introduction of plain packaging, the number of smokers has actually gone up for the first time since the anti-smoking campaigns a generation ago.
Just in Australia, the prevalence of illicit trade of cigarettes rose from 11.5% to 14% after the introduction of plain packaging. The number of smokers admitting to using the illicit cigarettes rose with the same proportion.
Plain Packaging in the U.K., and How Will it Encourage illicit Trade?
Going back to the plain cigarette packaging in the United Kingdom, there are some serious concerns that the proposed ‘shell and slide’ cigarette boxes in the plain packaging are easy to replicate, and they will encourage the illicit trade of cigarettes.
In the U.K., counterfeit plain packages of cigarettes have also been found, and their quality is tough to spot from the rest of legal packs. What is worse in the U.K. is that, in the past, illicit cigarettes meant cheap cigarettes, but now with the regulations, illicit cigarettes won’t be any cheaper and will be sold at the same price.
Here, the risk is not just the fiscal as there is no tax collected on the illicit product, but also the consumer, which can’t differentiate between the original and illicit product. As brands are significant indicators of quality, lack of branding will push more people into using the contaminated and by-standard product.
There is no winner in the plain packaging, other than the smugglers and their aides. Other solutions could prove to be more effective in controlling the rate of smoking than plain packaging.
In an open market economy, governments should not be dictating voluntary transactions of licensed products between two mutually consenting adults. Governments should not have a right to violate and destroy the economic rights and branding of a company at such a significant level. All too often, measures like plain packaging do not work, or they come with a lot of negative consequences, or both.
What would benefit everyone in this scenario is that such packaging laws were rejected from the outset, and it starts with the tobacco’s plain packaging, and custom cigarette boxes UK should be back. It does no good, and it does do harm, which if isn’t a reason to reject a public policy, what then is?