June 19, 2024
Global Tobacco Packaging

Tobacco Packaging: Regulating Packaging to Curb Tobacco Consumption

Plain Packaging Laws Around the World

More than a dozen countries have now implemented plain packaging laws for tobacco products. Plain packaging aims to reduce the appeal of tobacco products and increase the noticeability and effectiveness of graphic health warnings. By removing branding elements from packs, it seeks to diminish the attraction of tobacco use especially among youth and novice smokers.

Australia Was the First to Implement

Australia was the first country to enact legislation on plain packaging in 2012. The law required cigarette packs to be a dull brown color with the brand name printed in a uniform font size and place. It prohibited logos, colors and other design elements that make packs more appealing or distinctive. Early studies found plain packs reduced the positive images associated with smoking. Rates of tobacco purchases by minors also declined significantly.

The United Kingdom Followed Suit in 2016

Seeing the promising results from Australia, the United Kingdom followed with its own Global Tobacco Packaging and Related Products Regulations in 2016. Like Australia, packs in the UK could only be plain dark brown or green and feature the brand name in a standard location and formatting. Preliminary research suggests the law is achieving its aims of de-normalizing smoking and reducing brand appeal, especially among children and teenagers. Support for the policy remains high across the political spectrum in Britain.

France Introduced Plain Packaging in 2017

France was another early adopter, passing legislation requiring plain packaging in late 2016. The new rules took full effect in early 2017, requiring cigarette packs to be a standardized grey or brown and bearing bigger graphic health warnings. The decision was intended to provide further protection for public health, particularly among youth. Initial assessments mirror findings from other countries that plain packaging increases the effectiveness of health messages while diminishing positive cigarette associations.

New Zealand Enacted a Plain Packaging Law in 2018

New Zealand pursued plain packaging with thegoal of fulfilling its tobacco endgame strategy to be smokefree by 2025. Its Tobacco Standardised Packaging Act passed in 2017 came into force in mid-2018. Along with larger graphic warnings, the regulation bans logos, colors and other design elements from packs. Early data confirms the policy is reducing appeal and drawing greater attention to health risks outlined in the warnings. Support remains steady even from former opponents of the measure.

Plain Packaging Spreads Across Europe

Several other European nations have since implemented or intend to introduce plain packaging legislation. Ireland mandated plain packs in 2017 while Hungary did so in 2018. Norway approved regulations in 2018 establishing a pre-market review process for plain packs. Belgium passed a law in 2019 requiring plain packaging by 2023. Numerous other European Union countries are actively considering similar measures as well. With evidence accumulating that plain packaging reduces smoking, especially uptake by youth, momentum is building across the continent.

Health Groups Push for Global Action

As evidence of plain packaging’s benefits grows, health advocacy groups worldwide campaign for broader adoption. The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, an international treaty supported by WHO, recommends plain packs as an effective policy tool. Groups like the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids argue all nations should implement plain packaging to protect public health, particularly children. Industry legal challenges against existing laws pose ongoing opposition that public health defenders work to overcome. Momentum appears steady for more countries to follow the growing trend toward standardized tobacco packaging.

Industry Challenges and Trade Agreement Risks Remain

The tobacco industry stages forceful opposition to plain packaging through legal challenges and lobbying efforts. Big tobacco companies claim the policy infringes on trademarks and amounts to an illegal form of expropriation. Notable cases saw industry lawsuits against Australian and UK laws fail. But tobacco interests attempt comparable challenges in other jurisdictions as well and argue trade deals could undermine public health policies. Public health groups counter that bilateral investment treaties should not override nations’ authority or capability to adopt lifesaving tobacco control measures. Continued litigation and trade agreement oversight pose ongoing risks to the spread of plain packaging globally.

As the evidence from early adopters accumulates, plain packaging appears effective at reducing smoking rates and influencing social norms. Health authorities in numerous nations view it as a promising strategy to achieve tobacco control targets. Public support also remains steady even after implementation. While industry challenges remain, momentum is building for the worldwide adoption of standardized tobacco packaging policies. Further research will continue to monitor plain packs’ health impacts and influence on smoking behaviors and uptake over the long term. As data reinforced its merits, more countries will likely enact regulations in the interests of curbing the public health dangers of tobacco and protecting particularly vulnerable populations like youth

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it