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The plain logic of unbranded cigarettes


Wednesday night was probably the first and last time packaging will feature as the lead story on the BBC News. Legislation to make cigarette packaging unbranded in England is heading for the statute book.

When this was brewing, I was asked a couple of times if it would work. I think there is only one logical answer; if one accepts that good branding can help sell more of a product (and speaking as someone who has been living off this notion for a couple of decades, I do) then logically removing branding will reduce the appeal and sales of the brands.

Being a less seductive proposition will be particularly effective with younger people not yet lured in. Speaking of youth, it seems ironic that some of the marketing around the futuristically styled e-cig category features such old fashioned ‘look at these cool beautiful people puffing on a stick’ imagery. It’s like going back to the seventies. I guess legislation will catch up with this in time also. Say in around another forty years.

As for the criticism that easy to copy plain packs will lead to more counter fitting – phooey. Replicating branded cig packaging is little challenge already, in a world that can equally knock out copies of luxury handbags with no sweat. I’ve bought plenty of counterfeit cigs in my time, and you only tell the difference once you light up. And as someone who has smoked, (and worked on cigarette packaging) yesterdays news felt like a very good thing. And good to be living in only the second industrialised nation to embrace it after Australia.



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