Is plain packaging the way forward?

Tobacco is the leading global cause of preventable death and  kills nearly 6 million people  and causes hundreds of billions of dollars of economic damage globally1.The WHO predicts that if current trends continue, by 2030 tobacco will kill more than 8 million people worldwide each year, with 80% of these premature deaths occurring among people living in low- and middle-income countries. Tobacco kills one in two of its long-term users1. More deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by the combined number of  deaths from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined.2,3

The fact that tobacco is addictive, and that that smoking and second hand smoke cause a wide variety of diseases most notably cancers of all kind has been known for decades already. The tobacco industry  has employed sophisticated lawyer, public relation firms, corporate lobbyists—and even scientists and doctors—to distort the scientific and political process.4,5 There has been even evidence6 that in 1977 seven tobacco companies conspired together in an exercise called Operation Berkshire to cloud and counter the growing evidence of the association of tobacco with various diseases. In fact tobacco companies were long aware of these facts , covered up its own research on the dangers of tobacco use and the addictiveness of nicotine for long.7 Not only that they have also employed their chemists to enhance the addictiveness of nicotine even at the cost of adding known carcinogens. 8  The problem is more so in developing nations where governments cannot take a tough stand on these issues owing to the enormous revenues and employment opportunities it generates. Governments collect nearly US$ 133 billion in tobacco excise tax revenues, but spend less than US$ 1 billion on tobacco control, a deficit that is most evident in low- and middle income countries1. What they fail to see is the fact that in terms of long term health costs, mortality, morbidity and loss of economically viable human resource the costs are actually higher.  Cigarette companies are notorious for using their wealth to influence politicians to create a favourable environment to promote smoking 9.

All this makes the world a place where,

 “nearly every new drug is subjected to rigorous scrutiny as a potential carcinogen, and even the bare hint of a substance’s link to cancer ignites a firestorm of public hysteria and media anxiety—one of the most potent and common carcinogens(tobacco) known to humans can be freely bought and sold at every corner store for a few dollars”10

Plain packaging entails the use of a only standard type fonts in a single colour  on a plain background to provide minimum information necessary to identify a product, without the use of any logos, colours, designs, images  or even stylized fonts of additional descriptive terms1. Thus all cigarette packets will look the same irrespective of their brand Australia’s  plain packaging legislation which is scheduled to be rolled starting December 2012 has been described “as a weapons-grade public health policy that is causing apoplexy in the international industry.”11

Read the Complete Article by Dr Soumyadeep B at Kerala Medical Journal (Open Access)

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4 thoughts on “Is plain packaging the way forward?

      1. Andrew says:

        Sorry – the graphic images that I was referring to are ugly images of the effects of smoking on the lungs etc. Negative branding, as you will, of smoking in general.

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