A few years ago, a number of shops throughout Apia displayed posters announcing an interesting promotion.
Buy a packet of cigarettes, and be in to win the amount of cash displayed on a promotional strip of paper inside the packet!
Fast forward to the development of what is now the current Samoa Tobacco Control Act 2013, which included a key contentious issue surrounding a similar strategy recommended in the bill; to include a similar strip of paper...only this time it would be displaying smoking cessation tips for smokers.
British American Tobacco succeeded in stopping this proposal, arguing that it would be unreasonably costly for them, which is pretty interesting since the strategy was introduced by them in the first place!
And so here we are today, with World No Tobacco Day, and those of us who are in the fight against tobacco, find ourselves once again, at loggerheads with the savvy and very wealthy tobacco industry, debating another public health strategy to reduce the attractiveness of tobacco products: plain packaging.
According to the W.H.O., plain packaging, also known as standardized packaging, refers to tobacco packaging that requires the removal of all branding (colours, imagery, corporate logos and trademarks), permitting manufacturers to print only the brand name in a mandated size, font and place on the pack, in addition to the health warnings and any other legally mandated information such as toxic constituents. In short, disallowing the opportunity for the tobacco industry to ‘allure’ new and current smokers through attractive packaging.
The Tobacco Industry has argued that plain packaging is ineffective, but research in Australia, who is leading the way in plain packaging, has pointed to a 3% decrease in smoking since the introduction of plain packaging, reporting a lesser appeal to children between 12 and 17 years old, and prompting smokers to actually think about quitting.
The Tobacco Companies unsurprisingly argued against this idea in Australia, but failed because they could not prove that the Australian Government had profited from their intellectual property loss.
And just earlier this week, tobacco companies appealing the high court in the U.K. (including British American Tobacco), lost their bid to stop the U.K. from introducing plain packaging, which will now be introduced in the country from Friday 27 May 2016. James Eadie QC, stated that standardised or plain packaging was “highly likely to reduce both uptake and prevalence of smoking, and thus will have a positive impact on public health”. He also had this to say about tobacco products...
“...they are the only legal consumer products in the world that cause half of their long-term users to die prematurely.”