The obligation to sell cigarette packs without any distinctive branding was introduced on January 1 2017. Almost a year and a half later, it appears that the law has had no affect on the sale of cigarettes. However, other measures taken by the French state in the past have been able to significantly reduce tobacco consumption.
As early as 2001, warning messages alerting consumers to the dangers of smoking became visible on cigarette packets. Packs were designed with terse phrases like “smoking causes fatal lung cancer” or “Smoking is highly addictive, don’t start.” The impact of these messages remains unknown. In the beginning, there was a sharp decrease in the sale of tobacco (34%*). However, since 2004, the drop in sales has stabilized.
In 2011, written warnings were accompanied by shocking images, which were required to cover at least 40% of the surface of the cigarette pack. But companies were still able to flourish, and personal cigarette pack covers were developed in order to hide the disturbing images. Nonetheless, the drop in sales, estimated at 30%, suggests that these measures had a positive effect on consumer smoking habits.
Non-branded cigarette packs fail to affect tobacco sales
Australia has some of the most stringent anti-tobacco laws. In 2012, the country was the first to enforce neutral cigarette packs. Between 2010 and 2013, the percentage of young smokers in Australia dropped from 15.1% to 12.8%. Nonetheless, the price of cigarettes is probably the biggest reason why teenagers do not smoke, as they have limited purchasing power.
Since the establishment of anonymous cigarettes in France in the beginning of 2017, tobacco sales have only dropped 0.7%*. This measure is clearly underperforming, especially considering the initial outcry from tobacconists.
Last November, Agnès Buzyn, the Minister of Health, proposed to ban cigarettes in movies. According to her, showing actors smoking on screen encourages young people to follow this bad example. This time, however, moviegoers took to the streets to protest.
*According to figures from the French Observatory of Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT)