Smoke signals: Will plain packaging cause cigarette sales to fall or will minimalist designs have a cachet in their own right?

Chloe Hamilton weighs up the no-frills approach

As MPs bicker over cigarette branding in the Commons and anti-smoking campaign groups front the plain packaging crusade in an attempt to discourage young smokers, I'm reminded of a university friend of mine who used to carry around a delightful little decorated tin, packed with tobacco, filters, and papers. Any branded baccy she bought was quickly deposited into the container because she thought it was more fashionable to roll her own. No brands in sight. Everyone was doing it, she said.

Though all attempts to make cigarettes less appealing should be celebrated, I worry that dressing fags up like forbidden fruit will have the reverse effect to the one intended. If implemented, I envisage plain packaging acquiring a kind of cachet; a kind of outlawed cool that would make it oh-so-appealing to youngsters. After all, it's not that kids are attracted to the brands themselves; it's that they're fixated by the way they're perceived by their peers when wearing, drinking, or eating the branded items. That's why my friend chose to keep her tobacco in an unbranded box. It was cooler.

The Government has so far delayed a decision on plain packaged cigarettes, with David Cameron saying in July they wanted more time to see whether the policy had worked in Australia, which introduced plain packaging almost a year ago.

A sample of Australian smokers, who were polled in November 2012, before the legislation was rolled out countrywide, showed that smokers who bought unbranded packets were 66 per cent more likely to think the cigarettes inside were of a poorer quality, and were 70 per cent more likely to say they found them less satisfying.

Early indications also showed smokers smoking cigarettes from unbranded packaging were 81 per cent more likely to have considered quitting at least once a day during the previous week. Having said that, although in Australia cigarettes are sold without brand logos, the packaging is far from unblemished. Against a greenish brown background are graphic health warnings and gruesome photographs of smoking-related conditions.

In the UK, Cancer Research is urging the Government that no plain means no gain. In March, its executive director of policy and information, Sarah Woolnough, said: "Replacing slick, brightly coloured packs that appeal to children with standard packs displaying prominent health warnings is a vital part of efforts to protect health. Reducing the appeal of cigarettes with plain, standardised packs will give millions of children one less reason to start smoking."

But teenagers are faced with a barrage of pictures every day of their favourite celebrities enjoying a cigarette: a photo uploaded to Instagram showing Miley Cyrus with a cigarette drooping provocatively from her lipstick-laden lips; one of the lost boys in One Direction nipping out of rehearsals for a crafty fag; or Kate Moss and her cohorts stumbling out of a Mayfair club, cigs protruding from their puckered lips.

Arguably, it's the glamorization of the deadly habit that tempts teenagers into taking up smoking, more so than cigarettes sold in attractive packaging. One photo of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's is enough to make even the most abstinent among us reach for a cigarette holder, and I'm sure we're all guilty of pretending to smoke candy sticks when we were younger, copying nearby adults who were dragging seductively on their ciggies.

Of course, that's not to say the young aren't attracted to the designs on cigarette packaging (isn't that the only reason people smoke menthol cigarettes? A green packet! What a novelty!), but let's not do our young people a disservice by thinking them so superficial they will be deterred simply by a lack of pretty colours. These kids are creative. Plain packaged cigarettes might just become the next big thing.

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Arts and Entertainment
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

    £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

    Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

    Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

    C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

    Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

    C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

    Day In a Page

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home