Post B: Tobacco Plain Packaging Act Australia

Regarded as the key factor to cause a wide range of diseases including many types of cancer, heart disease and stroke, chest and lung illnesses and stomach ulcers, tobacco smoking leads to over 7 million (WHO 2017) deaths annually. It does not only destroy the health of the smokers, but also ‘…exacerbates poverty, reduces economic productivity, contributes to poor household food choices, and pollutes indoor air’ (Chan 2017).

In December 2012, Australia successfully became the first country to introduce the legislation of Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011 that requires all cigarettes sold from July 2012 to be packed in olive brown packages without brand design elements except for their brand names and product names displayed in a standardised font, colour and location (Wakefield 2011). Plain packaging eliminates the function of cigarette packs as portable advertising methods for tobacco companies, by smokers conveniently disseminating branding and imagery wherever they go. The Act went further to include large warning depictions of diseases caused by tobacco smoking, which was required by FCTC to cover at least 30% or 50% of the front and back of the packages (Hammond 2011). It aims to improve the public health by discouraging people from using tobacco products, discouraging relapse of tobacco use and reducing exposure to tobacco smoke (The Department of Health 2017).

plain packaging
Plain packaging (WHO 2016)

The government’s announcement of Plain Packaging Act showed Australia’s serious commitment to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. However, the paths through its realisation have continued to be opposed and attacked by tobacco companies, who are desperate to prevent its implementation in Australia. (Wakefield 2011) The victory of Philip Morris’ case against plain packaging law, which was criticised by the court as an ‘abuse’ (Knaus 2017) of trade agreements, was invigorated and it established an important precedent for plain packaging to be implemented elsewhere.

plain packaging 2
Before and after photos of cigarette packs from Australia, where plain packaging was introduced in 2012. (Hammond 2012)

Following the treaty of plain packaging and comprehensive graphic health warnings on cigarette and tobacco packs, the pack display declined by 15% (Zacher 2014). It has effectively minimised the exposure to tobacco promotion and has increased attention of health knowledge and perceptions of risk by smokers and non-smokers to promote smoking cessation (Hammond 2011). The drop of 0.55% points (Belluz 2016) of smoking rates between 2012 and 2015 attributed to the packaging changes that shows the success of plain packaging. The expectation aims to accrue the benefits of the Act overtime to protect young people from the tobacco industry.




Australian Government Department of Health, 2017, Evaluation of tobacco plain packaging in Australia, viewed 14 December 2017,

Belluz, J. 2016, Cigarette packs are being stripped of advertising around the world. But not in the US, Vox, viewed 14 December 2017,

Hammond, D. 2011, Health warning messages on tobacco products: a review, Tobacco Control, viewed 14 December 2017,

Knaus, C. 2017, Philip Morris cigarettes charged millions after losing plain packaging case against Australia, the guardian, viewed 14 December 2017,

Wakefield, M. 2011, Welcome to cardboard country: how plain packaging could change the subjective experience of smoking, Tobacco Control 2011,  Tobacco Control, viewed 14 December 2017,

World Health Organisation, 2017, Noncommunicable diseases: the slow motion disaster, viewed 14 December 2017,

World Health Organisation, 2017, World No Tobacco Day 2017: Beating tobacco for health, prosperity, the environment and national development, viewed 14 December 2017,

Zacher, M., Bayly, M., Brennan, E., Dono, J., Miller, C., Durkin, S., Scollo, M. & Wakefield, M. 2014, Personal tobacco pack display before and after the introduction of plain packaging with larger pictorial health warnings in Australia: an observational study of outdoor café strips, Wiley Online Library, pp. 653–662, viewed 14 December 2017,

One thought on “Post B: Tobacco Plain Packaging Act Australia

  1. I thought that this was a very interesting reflection of the affects of tobacco’s packaging. This post challenged my understanding of what would be successful marketing and made me question the psychology of those who smoke cigarettes. This shows how important the brand’s design factors are and how we as designers must be aware of these implications. Personally I thought that graphic health warning would stop anyone from smoking, however it is interesting to note that other design method might be more beneficial.

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