Cigarettes in Plain Packages

New Australian cigarette package
Newtown Graffiti, via Flickr

What do cigarette packages look like in your country? Do packages affect your buying decisions? Liz Waid and Adam Navis look at a new law in Australia that affects cigarette packages.

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Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Adam Navis.

Voice 2 

And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

In 2003, the company Crest wanted to sell more of their new toothpaste. This toothpaste cleaned teeth and made them whiter. But Crest needed a package for it. The package would hold the toothpaste as it sat in stores. Designers made the package look like it cost a lot of money. They wanted people to think the toothpaste was important. So, for example, they made its color dark blue. This design had a great result. Sales of the product increased by 5%.

Voice 2 

Packaging is often an important part of a product. Many companies hire researchers to design packaging. The researchers discover what kind of packaging makes people buy a product. Many parts of a package influence a person’s decision to buy a product. A person may not even notice that they are being influenced. Designers also think about what message the packaging sends to the person who buys it.

Voice 1 

Companies use product packaging to encourage people to buy a product. But what if packaging had the opposite effect? What if someone wanted to decrease sales? This is what some governments are doing. They hope to use this method to decrease the amount of people who smoke cigarettes.

Voice 2 

Many people already know that smoking is bad for them. Smoking is linked to many health problems including lung cancer and heart attacks. Cigarettes are made from the tobacco plant. The WHO reports that tobacco kills almost 6 million people every year. Over 80% of these deaths are in the developing world. However, even though it is dangerous, people continue to smoke. The WHO says that more and more people around the world are starting to smoke - especially in developing countries.

Voice 1 

The WHO works to stop people from smoking. They teach people why smoking is so dangerous. They support governments and organizations that help people stop smoking. For example, they encourage all governments to ban all forms of tobacco advertising. That is, tobacco companies should not encourage people to buy their product in any way. This can be through television or printed advertisements, or by giving away materials with cigarette company images on them.

Voice 2 

Advertising has a clear effect on people. That is why businesses pay so much money to create really good advertising. Packaging is a part of advertising. The way a product looks affects how it sells. Some governments are using this idea to encourage people to stop smoking.

Voice 1 

On December 1st 2012, Australia began a new law governing the selling of cigarettes. It is a law about cigarette packages. Many people call it the “plain packaging law”. In Australia, all cigarette packages must be in a particular kind of package, or box. The package must include no images or words from the company’s branding. That is, cigarette companies cannot use their colors, logos, or any other company images. Instead, every box is the same simple and unexciting brown color. The kind of cigarette is in small simple letters.

Voice 2 

All packages also include large health warnings. These health warnings include pictures. The warnings cover 75% of the front of the package and 90% of the back of the package. The pictures are of health problems caused by cigarettes. For example, one cigarette package has the warning: “Smoking causes lung cancer”. On the front and back of the package, there is a large detailed color picture of lung cancer in a person’s body. The image is real. It makes a person feel sick. It looks disgusting. The packages also include facts about the health problem and resources for stopping smoking.

Voice 1 

The Australian government chose each part of this design for a purpose. Placing large health warnings on cigarette packages is already very common in countries around the world. Larger health warnings are easier to see. But other parts of the package needed more research. For example, a research team asked people what colors they did not like. Then they chose the color people disliked the most. That is why the packages are brown.

Voice 2 

Australia has three main goals for their plain packaging. First, they want tobacco products, like cigarettes, to look worse. Second, they want people to notice the important health warnings. Shocking health pictures can have a big effect on a person. Finally, the Australian government wants cigarette packages to tell the truth about smoking. Smoking is dangerous for a person’s health. It is not a fun or exciting thing to do.

Voice 1 

Kylie Lindorff is the leader of the Cancer Council Australia’s Tobacco Issues Committee. She says the new packaging is already having the effect they wanted. Fewer people are enjoying cigarettes.

Voice 3

“Many, many smokers have said that they do not like the look of the new packages. They also believe the taste of the cigarettes is worse. But the tobacco companies have said the product is the same. This just proves how powerful packaging is. It communicates messages about supposed quality and benefits of a particular kind of cigarette.”

Voice 2 

But tobacco companies do not like the plain packaging law. And some countries are also trying to fight Australia’s laws. Four countries that export a lot of tobacco do not want the plain packaging laws to stay. They have brought their case to the World Trade Organisation. However, Australia has already defended the law against one case. It seems the law will stay.

Voice 1 

But still other countries are watching Australia’s plain packaging laws closely. Some countries even hope to establish similar laws. New Zealand, Ireland, and India are three countries who may soon begin using plain packaging for cigarettes.

Voice 2 

Will plain packages decrease smoking rates? Will other countries follow the model in Australia? Australian officials hope they will. They believe it is a gift they are giving to Australia’s people. Australia’s Federal Health Minister is Tanya Plibersek. She told reporters from The Age Newspaper:

Voice 4 

“If we can prevent young people from starting smoking that is a gift to them. And if we can help people who have smoked for a long time then I think we will see a big difference in our smoking rates over coming years.”

Voice 1 

The writer of this program was Liz Waid. The producer was Mark Drenth. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom and the United States. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at This program is called, ‘Cigarettes in Plain Packages’.

Voice 2 

You can also leave your comments on our website. Or you can email us at And you can find us on Facebook - just search for spotlightradio. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

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Does a product's package influence whether you buy it or not?


Avatar Spotlight
said on July 15, 2013

here i Brazil this same law applied in Australia was approved many years ago

Luis Piedra's avatar
Luis Piedra
said on July 15, 2013

Hi all
The cigarettes are the cause of many deaths. I think to live is better that death.
Thanks Spotlight

Avatar Spotlight
said on July 16, 2013

This kind of advertising ” plain packages” are good tip or advice for the people with problelms of smoking. I think   the taxes must be higher for this kind of business
and this money to be used for poor people.

Best regards

Avatar Spotlight
said on July 20, 2013

In Ukraine we have already slogans on packages. But yet no plain packages.

Avatar Spotlight
said on July 21, 2013

My father used to smoked vrey many cigarettes serveral years ago.
He tried stop smoking and didn’t smoke about one month, but after, he smoked again. He can not stop smoking.
While I go far away home to learn university. He tried stop smoking again. When I returned to visit my family, I’m very happy because he no longer smoke.
I hope all people smoking in the world will stop smoking. It’s very dangerous.
Let green life.

Avatar Spotlight
Mss Flamboyant
said on August 26, 2014

It is the best way affecting people’s consumption. I hope that the rate of smoking will reduce with the clever method. Smoking is not only affect heart, brain, health or unborn but also affect environment and people around. Government should increase education about harm of smoking to teenager. And packaging smoking law is necessary to pass in all countries. It is the fastest solution to smoking.

Avatar Spotlight
said on June 01, 2015

Yes. I think many people are influence by the pictures in the package cigarettes.
My country use the same method of Australia, the cigarettes package have a bad
images to discourage smoking.


muadibchik86's avatar
said on June 02, 2015

It may be able to affect who design to buy his the first pack. But those pictures and texts very littel affect
who has been smoking, except they may not receive the pleasure of the package desig. Who has already smoked
the psychological habit remains forever for. it is easier that the government(s) shut down tobacco factories. But in the life
the government(s) even can’t(or doesn’t want) cut the drug traffic off (the democracy, the free market, the rights and of couse the maney=) ).

Avatar Spotlight
said on June 07, 2015

I think Cigars should be much more expensive.

Avatar Spotlight
said on June 22, 2015

In the life we live, work and rest. When our health is good we can work. We complete our work every day. We complete our responsibilities and duties every day. “Good health is a great asset”. When we are ill we can not work. We have to treat our sickness. When we recover we can work again. We return to our normal life. We balance living, working and resting. Good health is everyone’s desire. Not good habits affect our health badly. We have time for living, working and resting. If our health is good we can do many beautiful good things.

Avatar Spotlight
Miguel Criollo
said on December 02, 2016

I think that the package’s colors and shapes influence in customer. However about to cigarrets package don’t apply 100%. In my country Ecuador people continius buying cigarrets although the package has images of people probably with cancer.

Avatar Spotlight
said on December 02, 2016

” Smoking can cause lung cancer” or ” Smoking cause slowly dealth”. That are warnings on each package in my country,Viet Nam.Here, percentage of smokers is 15% . This is cause which have many people dead because lung cancer. Thanks All !

Avatar Spotlight
said on December 15, 2016

Thanks Spotlight! I think Cigarette should be taken out of my country!

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on January 06, 2017

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To: spotlight programme
Subject: answer to the questions above
Date: Friday 06, January 2017
São Paulo SP Brazil

Dear Liz Waid, Adam Navis, and Mark Drenth:

At first, I want to thank you for bringing us readers and learners of English more one great article, thanks!
Yes, It does.
Here in Brazil we see the products by its appearance but after that we read its package to see what it has into it to enjoy it.  Generally I read the product’s labels.

Your regards,
Severino Ramos

Avatar Spotlight
said on September 01, 2019

In Brazil, authorities have launched a major program to encourage people to quit tobacco addiction, and one of the weapons they used was to write messages about tobacco-related illnesses, such as cancer, stroke and heart disease. The campaign was so successful that 20% of addicts quit their addiction.

Avatar Spotlight
said on September 01, 2019

Thanks, Liz Waid and Mark Drenth, for this program.
More than 90% of the Brazilian population has no smoking habit. According to a survey by the Ministry of Health released on Friday (31), 9.3% of Brazilians claimed to be smokers in 2018. In the last 12 years, the number of people who smoke fell 40% in the country.