On 29 April 2010, the Australian Government made an important decision to introduce mandatory plain packaging of all tobacco products by 2012. I was only 15 at the time, but I welcomed this change. I had lost my grandmother 6 months prior to complications brought about by emphysema. For years, I watched her suffer as she continued to puff away on her packs of ‘Peter Stuyvesant’s’. With each inhale, the false promise of glamour and beauty once paraded about by the ads on television, scattered away into the distance. Instead, I watched the damaging effects of cigarettes as they slowly took the life of my grandmother.
‘Before and after photos of cigarette packs from Australia, where plain packaging was introduced in 2012’ (Hammond, 2016)
Since the introduction of plain packaging, all tobacco products now come with a confronting health warning in the form of a graphic image, as part of the campaign to reduce the rate of smoking within Australia. Funded by the government, the method behind the campaign is to ‘shock’ viewers. A study on the effectiveness of ‘shock tactics’ in advertisement, determined that the use of shocking imagery by organisations was “…deemed successful at capturing the audience’s attention”. (Jones, Parry, Robinson, Stern, 2013) Click for article.
Furthermore, the Australian Bureau of Statistics show the successful impact of plain packaging in Australia: “…Since 1995, the proportion of adults who are daily smokers has decreased from 23.8% to 13.8% in 2017-18.” (ABS, 2019) Click to visit website.
Another study carried out, looked at links between the introduction of plain packaging in Australia and Quitline calls. Results showed that there was a “78% increase in the number of calls to the Quitline, associated with the introduction of plain packaging”. (Currow, Dessaix, Dobbins, Dunlop, Stacey, Young, 2014) Click for article.
In the early stages and still today, the government has been met with strong opposition, from Big Tobacco, members of the World Trade Organization and Australian retailers. Those opposed, were concerned that other countries would see the success of the plain packaging campaign, and would want to implement their own, thus industry profits would suffer. “Once even one country with a population of 23 million showed that plain packaging could be implemented, others would see it as something feasible”. (Chapman, Freeman, 2014)
The success of the plain packaging campaign in Australia shows a method that could be applied universally through a transdisciplinary approach.
Although my grandmother did not live long enough to see the changes brought about by the introduction of plain packaging, she would have been happy to see its success.
Australian Bureau of Statistics 2019, National Health Survey: First Results, Australia, February 2019, cat. no. 4364.0.55.001, ABS, Canberra, viewed 16 November 2019,
Australian Government Department of Health, 2019, Tobacco plain packaging, Canberra, viewed 16 November 2019,
Brenna, E., Coomber, K., Durkin, S., Scollo, M., Wakefielf, M. & Zacher, M. 2019, Tobacco Control, BMJ Journals, vol. 24, no. 2, viewed 17 November 2019,
Chapman, S. & Freeman, B. 2014, Removing the Emperors Clothes: Australia and tobacco plain packaging, 1stedn, Sydney University Press, Sydney.
Hammond, D. 2016, Before and after photos of cigarette packs from Australia, where plain packaging was introduced in 2012, Vox, viewed 18 November 2019,
Jones, R., S., Robinson, M. & Stern, P. 2013, ‘Shockvertising’: An exploratory investigation into attitudinal variations and emotional reactions to shock advertising, Journal of Consumer Behaviour, vol. 12, no. 2, viewed 17 November 2019,
Pursuit, 2018, Big tobacco vs Australia’s plain packaging, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, viewed 15 November 2019,
WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, 2019, Protocol, Geneva, viewed 16 November 2019,
Young, J., Stacey, I., Dobbins, T., Dunlop, S., Dessaix, A. & Currow, D. 2014, Association between tobacco plain packaging and Quitline calls: a population-based, interrupted time-series analysis, The Medical Journal of Australia, vol. 200, no. 1, viewed 17 November 2019,