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Australian court OKs cigarette logo ban

Australia’s highest court has upheld a new Government law on mandatory packaging for cigarettes that removes brand colours and logos from packaging.

Blank cigarette packaging

The decision means the original “olive green boxes with horrendous imagery” plan is still on course, so from December all logos and brand identity elements will be gone.

3 million people smoke in Australia, with 15,000 dying every year from tobacco induced illness (source: BBC).

There was a definite split in opinion when I covered the story last October.

More info on the upholding of the ban on the BBC website.

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14 appreciated comments

  1. Jon Liebold

    I kind of like this approach because the imagery is in a more intimate spot than say on a billboard or a TV commercial. It forces them to look each and every time at the product they are about to use and be told “This has a very a good chance of happening to you if you continue to use this product.”

    And I do think that it is an ethical issue for designers. Do you want yourself associated with the message of the product/service you are designing for? I may be alone in this, but I feel that in order to be a successful designer you have to actually care and cheer for the brands you work for. I mean, have any of us really been “meh” about something we have branded? Do you really want to cheer on a product that essentially is poison? And you can extrapolate this onto alcohol, fast food, or any other product you deem harmful.

  2. bill

    I smell a cig-cozy design competition.

  3. Thanks for the update David. I still don’t believe that this is the best way to go about getting people to stop smoking for a number of reasons. I am curious to see what impact (if any) this has on preventing people from smoking and/or getting them to quit. I’d also like to see if any other countries attempt to pass similar laws and how/if public opinion and the ability to pass similar laws varies.

    @Jon Excluding marketing adult products in ways that could appeal to children (ex: Joe Camel), I wouldn’t have a problem working on projects for tobacco, alcohol, etc. People have opinions about everything so the potential for a product to offend someone somewhere is pretty much guaranteed. I personally believe that tobacco, alcohol, and fast food are harmful so I take responsibility for my own health by not smoking at all and only drinking or eating fast food a few times per year.

  4. I wonder how people will be able to distinguish between makers and style of cigarette? You know…menthol or unfiltered etc…

    Personally I don’t think that it will have a big impact. People who smoke are going to smoke regardless of the packaging or branding. I used to smoke and it didn’t matter what brand…although I didn’t like menthol.

    Now cigarette companies are going to save money on packaging with no more metallic inks and emboss and gold foil…now they just sell the product.

    I went to school at VCU in Richmond, VA home of Phillip Morris. Some of the best design happens as a result of big tobacco. I personally dont have a problem with tobacco companies. They sell a product that people like that is bad for you in the long run. So is alcohol, sunlight, sugary drinks and food, processed food, eggs, meat, cheese, milk, being a couch potato, and a plethora of other marketable things in this world. If you took all of the things that were questionable and didn’t design for them…why be a designer at all? Our job is to communicate a clients goals visually through a medium that causes a visceral, emotional response to act.

    Take it for what it is worth…you cannot control what people want or do. They are responsible for there own lives and should be accountable for themselves. Everyone knows these things are bad so people should not use the excuse that they didn’t know. If you get ill from these things then accept the consequences. Modern man has known the evils of tobacco and drink for centuries.

  5. CA

    They either should just make the cigarettes illegal… or stop this nonsense.

  6. Making something illegal just makes it more desirable, for example there is the alcohol prohibition in the US in the 1920′s, only lasted a decade.

    I believe that design should be as honest as the product. If you are packaging poison, then you should present it to the customer just like that, as poison.

    I’m glad a government is taking steps like such. The world needs examples like these. I have regained hope for humanity.

  7. Dion

    I’m an australian non smoker and I think this is a great step forward. However I am sceptical of it’s impact I know of a few smoker who switched to using cases when the government started putting the cancer photos on the pack and currently stores are restricted from display more than 1 meter square of packets so who knows how effective it will at POS.

  8. Brandon Aragon

    I can understand the logic in wanting to strip the package down to a 3 dimensional white canvas of nothing but an image of a toasted lung and the name of the brand in helvetica bold.

    I smoke and I wouldn’t want to have to stare at that juxtaposition of bland and disturbing on a box every time I reach for a pack. But I would just take them out of the pack and put them in another container…. Done and done.

    I don’t think it will have a serious impact on getting people to quit. It would make me just want to smoke less every time I purchase a pack.

    Food for thought though: What if typographic solutions were allowed? I’m assuming that all brands will have to use the same typeface. However, what about placement, alignment, kerning, justification, type case, italics… Then there’s still ways to form brand identity, however minimal it may be. Which, I’m assuming, is what they’re trying to avoid?

  9. MrBiggles

    I have 5 metallic tins that were given away by Stuyvos afew years ago. I will be using them from now on, tins come complete with full branding and no death imagery.

    Stick that in you’re hypocrisy pipe Australian govt and smoke it.

    They could outright ban the things, but they would mean the aust govt gives up $10 billion a year on tobacco taxes.

  10. Stephanie B

    I’m an Australian graphic designer. I think that the only difference that this will make will be that smokers will be more likely to try the cheaper brands of cigarettes. It won’t stop people from smoking.

    There are already graphic images that currently appear on the front ‘lid’ and the back of packets. Making them bigger won’t make a difference.

  11. I find it strange that lots of designers who argue that we should pay for good design and that it makes a difference would also argue that this is a bad idea.

    Breaking the link between brand and consumer and all the emotional dependence they have with it.

    OK, some people wont want to quit and genuinely want to smoke. You probably wont change them. But many people do want to quit, and many people still start smoking.

    Ask yourself this. Why did tobacco companies spend million on sponsoring sport, even when all they could show were graphic elements of their brand? Because they like to decorate stuff?

    Also, cigarette companies oppose it. Clearly, they believe it will make a difference to them.

    So why not designers? Why aren’t we getting behind this?

    I believe that this will make a difference. I think the main reason why people are objecting to this is because A. They don’t like the idea of being told what to do by a government. B. It’s taking work away from designers. C. The fear that, if it is successful, what else will it apply to?

    It’s a brave move by Australia, I hope other countries take it up.

    On a side note, it would be interesting to see how cigarette sales change in Australia and how they change in other countries without the ban that Australians travel to.

  12. Jared Gonya

    I think it is a bit unfair to only put a direct blame on Tobacco while Alcohol and other drugs are left out. Every friday and weekends the police have to bang up violent and intoxicated people off the streets who cause public order offense and come monday they are all free to do it next weekend.
    Smokers mainly harm themselves but they are being heavily handed.
    Alcohol and drugs break families, hurt others and cause quicker death and harm that even children can see across the streets.
    All I ask is fairness and justice. If Tobacco is really that bad, Governments should stop taking their money and ban it, and smokers should then be made to pay for their own health insurance and the consequences of smoking.

  13. Here in Finland tobacco packaging is still branded around the Helvetica Bold All Caps “You will die” notice, but all tobacco products are out of sight in all shops and kiosks. You can ask the cashier for specific cigs or you can get a list to choose from. Could this not have been a solution for Australia?

    The last decade of anti-tobacco legislation has been very different from prohibition, a lot smarter and more effective. Its a very rare occasion to smell cigsmoke anymore and there is a growing sense of shame and stupidity associated with smoking.

  14. Jack

    I work in the design industry in Australia and am a non-smoker and I love this new law, take away every recognisable aspect of cigarettes possible.
    This new law isn’t about stopping people from smoking, it’s all about stopping people from starting. There is no brand recognition anymore, something which we all know sells products.

    We now have
    -No advertising
    -Every cigarette pack looking the same (all company names have to be the same font, size and no design differentiation (bold, italics etc.))
    -The display of cigarettes illegal. All POS have to cover up cigarette packets and can only present a list of what they sell (at least in Victoria where I live)
    -Ban on smoking indoors at any public venue
    -Ban on smoking at covered bus stops, train stations etc.
    -Ban on smoking in cars with kids enforced in all bar one territory

    With these laws we’re slowly reducing the smoking rate.

    For me the difference between smoking and other potentially harmful things (McD’s, alcohol) is that no level of smoking is healthy for you, not even one cigarette. We have very high taxes on cigarettes however despite the huge revenues from this tax the tangible cost of cigarette smoking to the economy is more than double the tax revenue.

    The government represents the people and this is what the majority want.


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