tocacco plant Native American Tobaccoo flower, leaves, and buds

tocacco Tobacco is an annual or bi-annual growing 1-3 meters tall with large sticky leaves that contain nicotine. Native to the Americas, tobacco has a long history of use as a shamanic inebriant and stimulant. It is extremely popular and well-known for its addictive potential.

tocacco nicotina Nicotiana tabacum

tocacco Nicotiana rustica leaves. Nicotiana rustica leaves have a nicotine content as high as 9%, whereas Nicotiana tabacum (common tobacco) leaves contain about 1 to 3%

tocacco cigar A cigar is a tightly rolled bundle of dried and fermented tobacco which is ignited so that its smoke may be drawn into the mouth. Cigar tobacco is grown in significant quantities in Brazil, Cameroon, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Indonesia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Sumatra, Philippines, and the Eastern United States.

tocacco Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the fresh leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as an organic pesticide, and in the form of nicotine tartrate it is used in some medicines. In consumption it may be in the form of cheap cigarettes smoking, snuffing, chewing, dipping tobacco, or snus.


Would you buy Brand X cigarettes?

x brand

Bans on lighting up indoors, tobacco advertising stopped, under-the-counter sales, the war against smoking goes further every year. But could plain, white packets be the nuclear option against the industry?

Marketing cigarettes used to be a lot easier. There were brands that were smooth, ones that were tasty, while others made you attractive to women, or men.

You were “never alone with a Strand”. Kools were “as cool and as clean as a breath of fresh air”. Camels were even sold on the basis that doctors smoked them.

When you think of someone who smokes Benson and Hedges or Marlboro, there are very different images - the sophisticate versus the cowboy

Becky Freeman
University of Sydney

Now, in the UK and many other jurisdictions, cigarette advertising is largely banned.

From tomorrow, it will be a legal requirement for all packs of cigarettes to carry a graphic health warning, showing such images as diseased lungs and deeply yellowed teeth.

And on 12 October, the government’s health bill could bring in a ban on tobacco displays in newsagents and other shops in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Similar plans are going through the Scottish Parliament.

But the anti-smoking lobby is not satisfied. They want the nuclear option. They want “plain packaging”.

Brand images

Recall all the famous brands and their liveries, the purple of Silk Cut, the red of Marlboro, the gold of Benson & Hedges and the two tone red stripe of Embassy.

Now imagine them all in plain white packets with the name of the cigarettes in a standardised font… and a prominent health warning of course.

It would reduce smoking by stopping people having brand attachment, says Sydney University’s Becky Freeman, co-author of The Case for the Plain Packaging of Tobacco Products.

“When you think of someone who smokes Benson and Hedges or Marlboro, there are very different images - the sophisticate versus the cowboy. Take that away and you don’t have people expressing identity through cigarette brands.”

The drive to plain packaging was started by anti-smoking activists in Canada in the 1990s, but it hasn’t been enacted by any government. Ms Freeman is still optimistic.

“It is just a matter of time before one country does it, then it will be like dominoes.”

The British anti-tobacco group Ash is also in favour of the move.

Pastel colours

“It would draw attention more to the health warnings rather than being distracted by the branding,” says Amanda Sandford, research manager.

What particularly concerns the anti-smoking groups is the use of subtle cues in cigarette branding. After the EU banned the use of such terms as “light” and “low tar”, because they wrongly suggest some cigarettes are less harmful than others, consumers continued to identify these “qualities” through associations such as silver and pastel coloured packets.
Cigarette advert from 1955

“The research on the existing packaging shows that this is really the last route tobacco companies can use to promote their brands to the consumers,” says Ms Sandford. “Now we have an advertising ban there is no doubt the industry is using the packets themselves to promote the brand. The packs give out certain messages.”

The tobacco industry vehemently opposes the idea of plain packaging.

One unintended consequence would be a rise in smuggling and potentially harmful counterfeit cigarettes in the market, says Catherine Armstrong, of British American Tobacco.

“At the moment they have to go to a lot of trouble to make the cigarettes look like the brands.”

The measure would also be likely to be the subject of legal challenges from tobacco firms, as the packaging design represents part of their intellectual property. The anti-smoking advocates say their legal advice suggests otherwise.

Government opposition

“Cigarettes are still a legal item which can be sold. People have a right to make a choice of brand,” says Ms Armstrong.

There is no evidence that plain packaging would cut smoking among the young, says Ms Armstrong.

The public health minister Gillian Merron has indicated that the government is not in favour of plain packaging.

She recently told the Commons: “No studies have been undertaken to show that plain packaging of tobacco would cut smoking uptake among young people or enable those who want to quit to do so.”

So, the clause on plain packaging added while the bill was in the House of Lords may fail. And, according to Ms Armstrong, the tobacco industry is not quaking with fear about a wave of plain packaging legislation.

But anti-smoking activists think otherwise.

“The tobacco companies themselves are screaming,” says Ms Freeman. “They are putting their ducks in a row to combat it.”

And indeed, the agenda for the upcoming tobacco trade show Tab Info Asia 2009, seems to suggest there is concern in the industry.

One workshop is described as “John Luik challenges you, working in teams, to come up with ingenious ways of operating in an increasingly regulated, plain-pack, dark market environment”.

And tobacco firms have responded in ingenious ways in the past to restrictions. When firms in the UK were no longer allowed positive messages in adverts, they turned it to their advantage. The slashed purple silk of Silk Cut and the oddly-placed gold packets of Benson & Hedges are two of the best-known advertising campaigns ever.

Viral marketing

Iain Ellwood, head of consulting at Interbrand, say further restrictions like plain packs could even play into the hands of the tobacco firms.

“The current trend is for word of mouth campaigning, social media and viral marketing.

“There is a potential short term blip in debranding the packs. Having these bland, basic packs might be soon as cool.”

Of course, the firms may fear maintaining separate brand identities will be hard to maintain in the long term.

“If you lose all of that they can’t navigate your offer quite as well so less likely to buy,” says Mr Ellwood.

The drive to plain packaging is part of the “denormalisation” of smoking, says Simon Clark of smoking rights pressure group Forest.

“It is a form of commercial censorship. No other product comes in plain white packaging. For some people it will make smoking slightly illicit. It will make smoking cool again.”

© Copyright: 30 September 2009 Bbc

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