No More Cigarette Branding Down Under

On August 15, the highest court in Australia upheld the November 2011 ban on cigarette branding sticking to a uniform packaging. This is the latest move in Australia’s bid to create a tobacco free generation. So from 1 December 2012, down under, cigarettes will be cigarettes. No fancy shmancy branding. Just a drab brown package with grotesque images of body organs affected by cancer. What does this mean for cigarette companies in Australia? What does this mean for consumers of cigarettes?

 Big tobacco is big money, not just in Australia but in the rest of the world. With an estimated 10 million cigarette sticks sold every minute globally, one could almost say that the global economy needs the tobacco industry. Governments share more than 160 billion dollars in annual revenue from only 9 top tobacco companies. About 15 billion cigarettes are sold daily – or 10 million every minute. The point is, tobacco is a booming business with a great consumer base and a global appeal.

So what does the packaging ban mean for tobacco brands in Australia?

A group of students from Griffith University in Queensland think it is a ridiculous ban that will not stop them from smoking. They are of the idea that the uniform packaging will only make them bigger brand ambassadors because now they will take time to read the packaging. If anything, they will be more conscious of the tastes of cigarette brands they prefer. This is good for the cigarette brands, except the question is; will the bulk of smokers in Australia have this same scrutinizing approach to their habit?

On the other hand it also means that as children are no longer exposed to tobacco advertising and they are will also be no longer exposed to tobacco branding. Studies have shown that kids find cigarette ads and branding glamorous. Cancer Research UK did a consultation about cigarette packing and the result was this rather disturbing, shockingly true campaign called The Answer Is Simple:

So with the ban, there will be no bright colours, no fancy fonts and no pretty pictures of cigarettes. Instead, graphic pictures of deteriorating body organs as a result of tobacco consumption. In fact, anti-smoking ads building momentum towards the official banning due in December have been in the Australian media for a while now and have been increasing in level of grotesqueness. Check this out:

The former Australian Minister of Health and Aging, Nicola Roxon who championed the ban since November 2011 still echoes the same sentiments of a future tobacco free generation, throwing analogies like health trumps economics. Speculation has been made about New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Canada following suit with such bans; a domino effect of some sort. I think other countries will follow suit with this same model. The fight against big tobacco has been going on for ages and finally Australia has taken them by the horns and swung them down. It is possible.

The tobacco big wigs led by British America Tobacco are of the idea that the ban infringes on their property/ trademark rights. They leveled charges against the law and lost the case. They are worried. I guess their worry is in place because their branded packaging was a major differentiator in their marketing. The branding set all the different types out there, apart and is the most primal means of attracting new customers. Dare I say, young customers.

After all is said and done, one wonders if this ban will bring about new ways of thinking in setting their different brands apart in the way they present to the public. Stealth advertising and product placement have been great, if not better, alternative to mainstream advertising. Will tobacco companies find another loophole somewhere in that law and ride it?