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The Unwrapped Gift to Improve Public Health: Plain Cigarette Packaging Would Help Save Lives in 2012

Note: World Lung Foundation united with The Union North America. From January 2016, the combined organization is known as “Vital Strategies.”

(New York, USA) – World Lung Foundation today called for governments to enact legislation to require plain packaging for cigarettes, citing it as perhaps the best “unwrapped” gift to public health in 2012. As people who smoke plan their New Year resolution to quit smoking, World Lung Foundation believes governments can support this effort by requiring plain packages with graphic pack warnings as part of an effective package of tobacco control measures.

Peter Baldini, Chief Executive Officer, World Lung Foundation said: “This holiday the public deserves one gift that isn’t wrapped up shiny and new: plain packaging strips the glamorous images and power of branding the tobacco industry has built up for many decades. Studies indicate that plain packaging is particularly effective in reducing the visual associations and appeal of branding that tobacco marketers have used to lure young people to tobacco use.”

Cigarette packaging is perhaps the tobacco industry’s most successful means of marketing to consumers. As tobacco company Brown & Williamson noted in a document in 1995, a smoker might take a cigarette pack out of their bag or pocket – and look at it – 20 times every day. Others might leave their cigarette pack on their desk at work or on a table at home for easy access – again gaining frequent exposure to the branding. By replacing these images with highly graphic warning messages and no cigarette branding at all, consumers will be exposed to messages that no longer benefit tobacco companies and may induce people to stop buying cigarettes overall.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of mortality in the world today, and is responsible for more than five million deaths each year—one in ten preventable deaths worldwide. The implementation of graphic pack warnings is one of the main commitments under the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). It is one of the World Health Organization’s M-P-O-W-E-R (W=Warn) strategies to reduce tobacco consumption. MPOWER strategies are endorsed and promoted by the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use, of which World Lung Foundation is a principal partner.