Rick writes: I’m a smoker. I’ll allow fifteen seconds for you all to berate me now. I’ll even berate myself because, frankly, I am an idiot who took up smoking when he was 18 despite a distinguished ‘career’ in high school of being the militant anti-smoker who hassled other kids at parties for sullying their mouths with a durry.
Now that I’ve declared my bias, let’s talk cigarettes.
Today is the day that we get our first look at proposed new cigarette packaging, packaging that will appear on every tobacco product if the Federal Government passes the laws it wants. The packaging is dull – olive green, so uncool – and the brand logo of the billion-dollar tobacco companies will be removed. The health warnings and graphic pictures will also be massively increased in size to take up the prime real estate on the boxes and tobacco bags.The cigarette type and brand name of the company will appear in a specific font, all uniform. Smokes won’t stand out. They won’t be differentiated. Australia will be the 1984 of smoke sellers.
And it might – maybe – be against the law. According to AAP:
“The government could end up wasting millions of taxpayers’ dollars in legal fees trying to defend their decision, let alone the potential to pay billions to the tobacco industry for taking away our intellectual property,” spokesman Scott McIntyre said.
Australia would be the first country to mandate plain packaging of cigarettes.”
And yet, after all this, I remain ambivalent. I’m a smoker and I smoke because I’m addicted to nicotine, not because I have a penchant for pretty colours on cigarette packaging. That ship’s sailed for me. But I don’t mind the Government trying, in case it works. It won’t affect me.
I spoke to Mamamia’s marketing director Simon about the psychology behind the plain packaging and whether it would deter anybody from taking up smoking. The answer, probably not. But it is indicative of the decline of tobacco in our society and that makes the tobacco giants nervous.
Simon explained that in days gone by, cigarette packets were an extension of a person’s personality. For example, Winnie Blues were for working class and Benson and Hedges – with that fabulous shiny gold packaging and embossed logo – were considered ‘classy’. I know, hold the laughter. Cigarette packs were back then as phones are today. Or cars. Or clothing brands. When you put them on the coffee table they signalled to all and sundry what you were all about. Outspoken, soft spoken, confident, refined.