Myths and facts

Tobacco industry myths about plain packaging

Myth

It won’t work, so why do it?

Fact

As the number of design elements on cigarette packs decrease, so do the level of positive perceptions people have about smoking.

Research concludes plain packaging is likely to:

  • reduce the appeal of smoking to teenagers and adults
  • make health warning messages on packs more prominent
  • stop smokers incorrectly believing that some brands of cigarettes are less harmful than others.
     

Myth

Plain packaging was rejected in the UK and Canada

Fact

Canada and Britain, along with Australia, have signed an international World Health Organisation (WHO) treaty that recommends its members pursue plain packaging.

Just this year the British Government stated that it will consult on options to reduce the promotional impact of tobacco packaging, including plain packaging, before the end of 2011.

Plain packaging is also being considered by the European Union and New Zealand, while a plain packaging bill has been introduced in the French National Assembly.
 

Myth

Every state in Australia has already moved to make it illegal to have cigarettes on display. So if you can’t see them, how will plain packaging make any difference?

Fact

Both display bans and plain packaging are important in reducing avenues for tobacco industry promotion and the recruitment of new smokers.

Once out of the store, cigarette packs act as mobile advertising for the brand. Smokers display the pack approximately ten to fifteen times a day as they light up - often leaving them out in social situations where others will see them. Plain packaging will end this form of promotion.
 

Myth

Plain packaging laws will result in the government paying compensation to tobacco companies for acquisition of their property and will breach international trade agreements.

Fact

The Government will not be acquiring trademarks or any other property from tobacco companies - it will only be restricting the tobacco companies’ use of their trademarks and packaging. For this reason, there will be no need to compensate tobacco companies for acquisition of property. Plain packaging will not disadvantage imports, or restrict international trade. International trade agreements do not create a right to use trademarks, and, in any case, they allow for member countries to implement measures necessary to protect public health.
 

Myth

Plain packaging will make cigarettes easier to counterfeit and will increase the trade in illicit tobacco products such as “chop chop”

Fact

There is no evidence that plain packaging will lead to an increase in illicit trade in tobacco products. Tobacco industry claims about the amount of illicit tobacco purchased in Australia have been found to be exaggerated and misleading. The plain packaging legislation will allow tobacco companies to continue to use anti-counterfeit markings on their products.

For the facts about illegal trade, go to p25 of the Evidence Review

Quit Victoria has critiqued several industry-commissioned reports on the illicit trade of tobacco in Australia... and you'll want to read the results to get the real story.

Quit Victoria's critique of an industry-commissioned report released in May 2012 on illicit trade of tobacco in Australia can be viewed here.

Quit Victoria's critique of an industry-commissioned report on illicit trade of tobacco in Australia, released March 2011, can be found here

A tobacco industry-funded report by PricewaterhouseCoopers released in February 2010, can be found here.

A copy of Quit Victoria's critique of this report is available here.

Myth

This is the tip of the iceberg and pretty soon public health organisations will be calling for the plain packaging of other consumer products

Fact

Tobacco advertising was banned in Australia in 1976. In 35 years, no other product category has been banned from advertising in Australia.

The reason tobacco has been targeted in this way is because it is unlike any other product on the market. It kills half of all long-term users and 15,000 people in Australia every year.

Restrictions on the packaging of tobacco products are warranted because of the dangerous nature of tobacco.

Myth

If the government was actually serious about stopping people smoking it would ban the sale of tobacco. It won't though because of the tax it brings in

Fact

If tobacco was introduced to the retail market today, there's no question it would be banned.

Unfortunately though, the dangers of smoking only became apparent in the fifties, a time when around half of all Australians smoked.

Although we've made significant inroads in smoking rates since then, one in five people, or three million Australians still smoke - many because they are addicted to nicotine.

We need to get smoking rates down as far as possible through policies like plain packaging before we can think about banning tobacco - especially given the long history of criminal activity that has accompanied prohibition in the past.

And although the Cancer Council Victoria estimates the government made $5.92 billion from excise on tobacco products in 2010 - that pales in comparison to the costs incurred to Australia from smoking every year: $31.5 billion.