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Will packaging REALLY make a difference? – PR Week Post #28

February 1, 2010

(Click here for the original post on PR Week)

Regardless of which party is actually in power to implement these changes, I thought the new government’s new commitment to a 50% reduction in the number of smokers in the UK by 2020 made interesting reading. Ingeniously titled: “A Smokefree Future“, the commitment takes five main positions:

1. Stopping young people being recruited as smokers by cracking down on cheap illicit cigarettes. Immediate investment in extra overseas officers will stop 200 million cigarettes entering the UK every year.
2. Every smoker will be able to get help from the NHS to suit them if they want to give up – new types of support will be available at times and in places that suit smokers.
3. The Government will carefully consider the case for plain packaging.
4. Stopping the sale of tobacco from vending machines – a significant source of tobacco for young people.
5. Protecting everyone, especially children, from the harms of second-hand smoke by promoting smokefree homes and cars and reviewing smokefree law. This review will include, for example, whether to extend legislation from enclosed public places and workplaces to areas like entrances to buildings.

All admirable steps to improve our nation’s future health but which of these steps will most likely succeed?

Young people will smoke (expensive or cheap cigarettes) provided they can still buy them.  Packaging changes won’t work either. Does a shiny red Marlboro box, a nice purple Silk Cut stripe or a nicely groomed Camel really entice someone to smoke? Personally, I would like to see all vending machines removed and a 6m building entrance exclusion zone (like the states of California and New York) enforced because accessibility and convenience will surely have the most impact.

Time to get off my soap box now and hand it over to you…