In the months leading up to 1 December 2012 (the date after which only plain packs could be sold in Australia) tobacco companies employed a number of strategies to attempt to mitigate the effects of the legislation. These activities included short-term messages on packs reassuring smokers about the continuing quality of well-known brands. Further product and packaging strategies, such as the issuing of special editions and collector packs and the launching of a number of new brands and variants were observed during the transition to plain packaging and subsequent years. These longer-term packaging and branding strategies are described in detail in Chapter 10, Section 10.8.
British American Tobacco Australia added a reassurance message to the packaging of Winfield in 2011 that emphasised its status as the top-selling brand in Australia, 'True Blue Aussie Original since 1972'. It also provided banner messages over the front of the iconic Winfield crest reassuring smokers that the products’ taste would continue unchanged despite the imminent new packaging—see Figure 11A.3.
Philip Morris provided customers with similar assurances through pack inserts (see Figure 11A.4). Imperial Tobacco Australia took a more dramatic approach with its Peter Stuyvesant brand (Figure 11A.5). In the months immediately before plain packaging implementation, two ‘transition’ pack designs were introduced alongside the usual white Peter Stuyvesant pack. These were a mock-up plain pack in a dark brown colour, but still featuring Peter Stuyvesant branding, and a 50–50 tear off design showing the original packaging underneath the ‘plain’ packaging. The ‘plain’ packs featured a reassurance message stating ‘Branded cigarette packaging will be banned in December, but Peter Stuyvesant will live on. After all, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.’
Winfield cigarettes including sticker with message reassuring smokers about continuing quality
Source: ASH Australia packwatch website
Philip Morris pack insert reassuring smokers about continuing quality
Source: ASH Australia Packwatch website—see http://www.ashaust.org.au/lv4/MarketingPloys.htm#PACKWATCH
Peter Stuyvesant ‘transitional’ packs carrying the reassurance message 'It's what’s on the inside that counts', Australia September 2012
Source: Quit Victoria pack collection
In the UK, manufacturers and retailers were given 12 months to transition from branded to plain packs. An observational study found that fully branded packs were sold up until the final month of the transition period (May 2017),1 and no standardised packaging was sold in the first five months, suggesting that 12 months was longer than needed to complete the transition and that tobacco companies may have used this time to delay the removal of branded packs and introduce plain packs more gradually. This in turn may have weakened some of the short-term effects of the legislation by desensitising smokers to the new packs.1
Relevant news and research
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1. Critchlow N, Stead M, Moodie C, Eadie D, and MacKintosh AM. Introduction of standardized Tobacco packaging during a 12-month transition period: Findings from small retailers in the United Kingdom. Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 2018:nty006-nty. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ntr/nty006