The case for the plain packaging of tobacco products

Addiction. 2008 Apr;103(4):580-90. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2008.02145.x.


Aims: The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) requires nations that have ratified the convention to ban all tobacco advertising and promotion. In the face of these restrictions, tobacco packaging has become the key promotional vehicle for the tobacco industry to interest smokers and potential smokers in tobacco products. This paper reviews available research into the probable impact of mandatory plain packaging and internal tobacco industry statements about the importance of packs as promotional vehicles. It critiques legal objections raised by the industry about plain packaging violating laws and international trade agreements.

Methods: Searches for available evidence were conducted within the internal tobacco industry documents through the online document archives; tobacco industry trade publications; research literature through the Medline and Business Source Premier databases; and grey literature including government documents, research reports and non-governmental organization papers via the Google internet search engine.

Results: Plain packaging of all tobacco products would remove a key remaining means for the industry to promote its products to billions of the world's smokers and future smokers. Governments have required large surface areas of tobacco packs to be used exclusively for health warnings without legal impediment or need to compensate tobacco companies.

Conclusions: Requiring plain packaging is consistent with the intention to ban all tobacco promotions. There is no impediment in the FCTC to interpreting tobacco advertising and promotion to include tobacco packs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Advertising
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Health Policy / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Humans
  • Marketing / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Marketing / methods
  • Product Labeling / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Product Labeling / methods
  • Smoking Prevention*
  • Tobacco Industry / legislation & jurisprudence*