RAW: Colourful debate on plain cigarette packaging

By Lewis Dowell

As the government stands strong on its decision to introduce plain packaging for cigarette packets (all packets to become a horrible pale ‘baby vomit’ green), tobacco companies have taken to television, radio and print to attack the new anti-smoking scheme, as well as potentially taking the government to court to gain compensation for loss of revenue.

Big tobacco sees a real threat about to hit their brands. And that is the un-branding of their product. Maybe the reason we haven’t seen such a strong response like this from tobacco industries previously is because they haven’t particularly seen the threat. Maybe their research showed that smokers under the age of 20 weren’t concerned with health warnings, cigarette contents, and didn’t mind going outside to smoke. And maybe their research shows that branding, packaging and image is key to getting young people to buy their first packet.

Tobacco companies so far have taken a philosophical stance against the proposal, spouting freedom in the market place and government control, as well as a ‘nanny-state’ fear campaign. The notion of “if the government takes control of cigarettes, what will be next…” including a picture of a green drink can with the boring and un-branded text of ‘Cola’ written on the side. Maybe if Cola drinks still contained cocaine as was the original secret ingredient, the government may be taking a similar line. However as Coke is relatively harmless apart from the amount of sugar, which can be avoided by buying several sugarless varieties, I really don’t think Coke or indeed any other brands should be worried by the steps the government is taking against cigarettes.

However some in the media and public have bitten on to the tobacco industries central premise, that while cigarettes are legal the government should not be able to exercise control over their product.

I have heard the argument that the government should either make cigarettes completely illegal, or should let them operate freely in the market place like any other company or product. However to make cigarettes illegal with out taking these precautionary steps would be to cut Australia off cold turkey. To cut off cigarettes whilst a massive slice of the population is still heavily addicted would only promote an illegal market for cigarettes as well as cause heavy distress to many of those addicted.

I believe what the government is doing at the moment is essentially acting like a federal nicotine patch. Taking steps against cigarettes step by step, slowly making the policies stronger and more effective, and slowly cutting down the amount of those addicted until they can make the product widely illegal.

The other line you hear is that, cigarettes can only be sold to adults, and adults should be able to choose if they wish to smoke or not, and that these new policies are just an extension of the ‘nanny-state’ where we are told what to do and what not to do because we aren’t smart enough to make decisions by ourselves. Well unfortunately we are still able choose to smoke or not because this policy does not make smoking illegal. In fact if anything, it is making our choice free of control from the research and branding of tobacco companies, making our choice clearer. The other point is that the choice to smoke or not to smoke is only made a few times before it doesn’t become a choice at all, but just a habit formed on addiction. All the government is trying to do is lower the amount of people that make that initial choice to become addicted to cigarettes.

Taking away the branding, image and overall ‘prestige’ of the cigarettes is the right step forward. Although the packets are already marked with health warnings and graphic photos, there is no denying the distinctive branding of some cigarette brands such as the shiny gold colour of Benson and Hedges or the old fashioned charm of Malboro. That’s all gone now, and has been replaced by the drabbest, most boring and repulsive shade of green possible. And the fact that cigarette companies are so up in arms should only tell us that the reform is actually going to work.

The fact that Philip Morris, a major tobacco company, is now threatening the government with potential legal action, seeking compensation for loss of revenue, should be see by the public as a joke, and a desperate one at that.

Tobacco companies knowingly sell a highly addictive product that kills people. They know their branding and image is what encourages young people to take up smoking, and then once the addiction is formed they know they will most likely continue smoking for years. The fact they believe they will lose revenue is only to say that the de-branding of their product will work and that less young people will take up smoking and form cancers and other fatal, debilitating and life ruining conditions.

Cigarette companies are barely entitled to our attention let alone our sympathy and understanding. It’s time we all see the tobacco industry for the hypocritical and mass murdering giant it is and don’t give them room to move.


  1. Alcohol companies also sell a highly addictive product which kills people (& destroys families ) , usually quicker though !! Where are all the bleeding heart nazis on this seemingly sacred cow ? We ought ALL not forget the Eureka Stockade , When injustice becomes law , resistance becomes duty . Wake up Australia , before we lose all our freedom , Protest , or DON’T vote & encourage the mongrels . WE are politicians employers , NOT the other way ’round .

    1. i think what you said is exacly right on the money good job and thank you for opening my eyes

  2. Might be ok for all the non smokers to be self righteous and get on the bandwagon re plain packaging and side with the Govt. on this issue. How will you all feel when they do the same for all alcohol beverages and lift it beyond affordability after taxing it to the hilt. This is nothing but total hypocrisy by all of you . Self righteous jerks poking your noses into other peoples business . How on earth can plain packaging reduce smoking , cigarettes will still be available same as ever , who cares about plain packaging , nobody. The Govt. have 2 real solutions if they have a real concern about smoking. Ban them or force tobacco coy. to remove nicotine from the product. Cigarettes are simply a carrier for addictive nicotine, nothing else. Time people looked properly at our lazy Govts. real effectiveness on real issues rather than just dudding a simplistic Australian public who are unnaware of the Govts. real agenda.

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