Campaign for plain packaging | Fondation contre le Cancer

Campaign for plain packaging

Make cigarette packs less attractive and prevent young people to take up smoking.

What is plain packaging?

Plain packaging includes the removal of all attractive promotional aspects on tobacco product packaging. Except for the brand name (which would be presented in a standardized way), all other trademarks, logos, color schemes and graphics would be prohibited. The package itself would be required to be plain colored and to display only information (such as health warnings) required by law.

Why plain packaging?

The Belgian Foundation against Cancer commissioned qualitative research on the opinions and attitudes of young people towards plain packaging in Belgium. According to the research, plain packages are perceived as less attractive, cheap and unreliable for young people. In addition, plain cigarette packs enhance the visibility of the health warnings. In their conclusions, the authors stressed that plain packaging could be a strong policy tool to reduce the number of adolescents starting smoking(1).  Similar findings were observed in 37 studies conducted in eight countries(2).

What do young people think about plain packs in Belgium?

The Belgian Coalition against Tobacco surveyed 806 youngsters across Belgium in 2012 to get their views on Australia’s new cigarette packaging rules. The results showed that about 75% of the respondents had positive views regarding plain cigarette packs.

'They put people off, as it should be' (boy, 17)
'The photographs show how it really is, so I think it's OK' (girl, 16)
'The images are shocking. If somebody offered me a pack like that, I wouldn't want to smoke' (girl, 15)
'It looks less attractive and shows the dangers of tobacco. Fewer people will start smoking as a result of this. But I think that people who already smoke will simply continue' (girl, 15)

When to campaign for plain packaging?

Australia is the first country in the world which made plain packaging mandatory on all tobacco products in December 2012.

 
The 2001 EU Tobacco Products Directive is under review. The Council and the European Parliament are exploring the merits of introducing plain tobacco packaging as part of the revision of the Directive. It is now the right time to call for plain packaging.

Why is big tobacco against plain packaging?

The tobacco industry claims that plain packs would be easier to counterfeit and will lead to more organized crime.  The reality is that all packs are easy to counterfeit and that counterfeiters are able to provide top quality packaging at low prices in a short time. Plain packaging will not make any difference to the counterfeit business, as shown in the video commissioned by the Foundation against Cancer.

What should be done?

Belgium should follow the Australian example. The Foundation against Cancer urges the Belgian government and the European Union to impose plain and generic packaging of tobacco products as part of the review of the Tobacco Products Directive. Figures of the World Health Organization (WHO) show that one out of two youngsters in 2010 had already smoked in Belgium. The objective of plain packs is to make cigarette packs less attractive and prevent young people to take up smoking.

Press corner

 1. Guido Van Hal and al, Flemish adolescents’ perceptions of cigarette plain packaging: a qualitative study with focus group discussions, BMJ Open 2012;2:e001424 doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001424

2. Crawford Moodie et al, Plain packaging, a systematic review, University of Stirling, 2012. http://phrc.lshtm.ac.uk/papers/PHRC_006_Final_Report.pdf

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