Objectives: To gain an understanding of the role of pack design in tobacco marketing.
Methods: A search of tobacco company document sites using a list of specified search terms was undertaken during November 2000 to July 2001.
Results: Documents show that, especially in the context of tighter restrictions on conventional avenues for tobacco marketing, tobacco companies view cigarette packaging as an integral component of marketing strategy and a vehicle for (a) creating significant in-store presence at the point of purchase, and (b) communicating brand image. Market testing results indicate that such imagery is so strong as to influence smoker's taste ratings of the same cigarettes when packaged differently. Documents also reveal the careful balancing act that companies have employed in using pack design and colour to communicate the impression of lower tar or milder cigarettes, while preserving perceived taste and "satisfaction". Systematic and extensive research is carried out by tobacco companies to ensure that cigarette packaging appeals to selected target groups, including young adults and women.
Conclusions: Cigarette pack design is an important communication device for cigarette brands and acts as an advertising medium. Many smokers are misled by pack design into thinking that cigarettes may be "safer". There is a need to consider regulation of cigarette packaging.