Friday, August 17, 2012

Another Choice for Smokers

   With Australia on the books and the UK likely to follow, smokers now have label options among their choices.  Actually, it is not going to be a choice but lets pretend that it is for my post.  When buying cigarettes smokers can choose from:
  • reg(shorts) or 100s
  • menthol or non-menthol
  • mild or full flavored (aka light vs not light)
  • graphic or Logo package
and now
  • graphic or brand(logo) or plain package
   Why the fuss about a pack label?  Tobacco companies use them for branding.  If I asked you to name a cigarette brand - even if you have never smoked, I bet you could name at least two.  Some that come to mind for me are Camel, Kool, Pall Mall, Marlboro, Virginia Slims... etc.  There is an image tied to those brands.  Virginia Slims  associates w/ successful, thin, liberated women.  Marlboro is the rugged, tough, male.  People start smoking, it is suggested, to become that image or have what those people have.  Tobacco companies spend billions of dollars every year to make that so.  Probably they spend more on branding than ever before because the Master Tobacco Settlement of 1998 severely restricted their advertising options and prevent sponsorship of sporting events.
    Health experts use labels to dissuade people from smoking or to encourage them to quit.  Warning labels were expanded with the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2008 (they had to take up more space on the labels), but graphic pictures are due in 2014.  Other countries have been using them for some time.  The USA used the evidence from Australia and the UK to make a case for graphic messages in the 2008 law.  The current CDC print and television ads are also graphic in nature.  
   Graphic labels are effective - but there are not  VERY effective.  
People who smoke have difficulty quitting due to the nature of nicotine addiction.  But why do people even start?  Why do thousands of adolescents try cigarettes every day and many become life long smokers.  Currently 18% of high school students smoke.  Read more statistics about youth smoking at the Tobacco Free Kids website here.
   People start smoking when they are young - usually under the age of 18.  Very few current smokers started after the age of 21.  (I started when I was 15 and smoked 17 years.  I have been quit 15)
   Who is most susceptible to the promise of glamor, sophistication, popularity, success??? Youth.  It is hoped that by making the cigarette packs plain there will be less of a branding effect.  This change may lead to a true reduction in the prevalence of smoking.
   We will have to wait a few years to test the effect of the Australia law - but it sure sounds reasonable in theory!

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