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All puff of a decision?
The story that tobacco companies could be forced to sell cigarettes in plain brown packaging sparked much debate online:

As a ex smoker, I’m all for making smoking less appealing to cut the numbers of people who smoke. But when I started smoking, the brand, packaging and logos had no influence on what I smoked – the price did. And surely if we go down this route, then the same will have to apply to alcohol – after all, it’s addictive, causes serious health and mental issues and costs the NHS millions to treat the abuse.

In the interests of our future generations’ health, this is a brilliant concept but I fear that’s all it is, a concept.
Debranding packets has deep implications; how will a genuine of age purchaser be able to distinguish between different brands and products? And, far more important, with the rise in counterfeit cigarettes available through legitimate retail avenues, the tobacco industry should be encouraged to spend more on packaging to challenge counterfeiters.

This may still not achieve the objective of discouraging smoking. Already, through the ban on advertising, cigarette brands lack ’external’ sources of imagery, yet rates of smoking remain high. Moving to standardised packaging may remove some of the ’cool’ factor associated with specific brands, but the ’cool’ factor around the category remains a more challenging prospect. Smoking has become deeply rooted in popular culture. The government will need to prompt a re-invention of the cultural cannon without the influence of tobacco and the many distinctive icons it has created, from the ruggedness of Marlboro man to the altogether smoother and distinctly purple sheen so reminiscent of Silk Cut.
However, what this debate does highlight is the crucial role of packaging in the marketing mix.
Jessica Bower, Sundance London

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