Visual Vice

A recent example a designed initiative with a focus on tobacco control is evident within the plain packaging method instituted by the Australian government. The method focused upon the removal of branding with an olive green colour palette design (David, 2017). The plain packaging policy operates as a top-down solution with the aim being to change the perception and stigmatise tobacco products for both current and potential users.

ciggarettes.jpg
Figure 1: Change in packaging, David H.

The first major impact of the plain packaging strategy adopted by the Australian government focuses on targeting the cultural perception of smoking with a particular emphasis on non-smokers. The role of packaging and colour palettes initial worked to target the desires of demographics within society particularly young adults evident utilisation of trendy iconographic and lighters colours. By changing the branding of these products into a singular standardised appearance this appeal could then be subverted with the substituted olive colour rephrasing the product as repulsive. The effectiveness of this policy was reviewed in 2014 with a survey of high school students with the study stating ‘This packaging change was associated with a reduction perceived attractiveness and appeal of cigarette packs to adolescent’ (Facts sheet no. 1: What has been the impact of legislation to standardise the packaging of tobacco products in Australia?, 2016).

The second major impact of the plain packaging strategy adopted by the Australian government was the enhancement of the unappealing visuals previously implemented on cigarette packaging. These images were previously present on tobacco product however following the introduction of the plain packaging policy the scale of these graphics increased dramatically from 30 % to 75 % (White and Williams, 2015). This increase in scale in combination with the change to plain packaging reinforced the unappealing atmosphere the policy aimed to manifest within potential users. This implementation also worked to increase the understanding of current users with Cancer Council Victoria suggesting ‘in the first year post-implementation, more smokers noticed graphic health warning sand attributed their motivation to quit to the warnings compared with pre-plain packaging.’ (White and Williams, 2015).

The third major impact of the plain packaging strategy adopted by the Australian government was the challenging of the comparative safety of tobacco brands as understood by the public. This misconception stems from an interpretation of colour as an indicator of the safety of the tobacco product with darker colours being perceived as dangerous and unhealthy while lighter colours were perceived as less harmful or safe. This perception can be attributed to a combination of marketing established by tobacco companies with products labelled ‘light’ or ‘mild’ typically being coloured lighter tones as well as the natural conditions of the colours. This understanding was supported by a study conducted in 2010 which stated ‘colors and descriptors are perceived by smokers to communicate health-risk information.’ (Bansal-Travers, 2011). The change to a stark and unappealing dark olive colour combats this theory by playing upon the implied connotations of the colour has unhealthy and dangerous.

In summary, the plain packaging policy adopted by the Australian government as a nonprofit effort to combat the understanding and uptake of smoking has been successful in changing the perception and appeal of tobacco products visual and practical perspective.

References
Bansal-Travers, M. 2011, What Do Cigarette Pack Colors Communicate to Smokers in the U.S.?, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/. viewed 29 November 2018, <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3124844/>.


David, H. 2017, Nothing Plain about Plain Packaging | IASLC Lung Cancer News, Lungcancernews.org. viewed 29 November 2018, <http://www.lungcancernews.org/2017/02/01/nothing-plain-about-plain-packaging/>.


Facts sheet no. 1: What has been the impact of legislation to standardise the packaging of tobacco products in Australia? 2016, Cancervic.org.au. viewed 28 November 2018, <https://www.cancervic.org.au/downloads/plainfacts/Facts_sheets/Facts_Sheet_no_1_Impact_PP_legis_May2016.pdf>.


White, V. and Williams, T. 2015, Australian secondary school students’ use of tobacco in 2014, Nationaldrugstrategy.gov.au. viewed 29 November 2018, <http://www.nationaldrugstrategy.gov.au/internet/drugstrategy/publishing.nsf/Content/BCBF6B2C638E1202CA257ACD0020E35C/$File/Tobacco%20Report%202014.PDF>.

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