The French government thought that January 1, 2017 would be a watershed moment in the fight against tobacco addiction. Since this day, tobacconists have been obligated to sell neutral cigarette packets, a requirement that at the time was quite controversial. Tobacco store managers were understandably afraid of a drop in profits, and tobacco manufacturers complained that these new regulations would punish tobacconists and favor the black market. And so indeed, the question must be asked: what does the situation look like two years onward?
Public Health France has just published a report on the effect of neutral cigarette packaging. According to this public health organization, adding shocking photos to cigarette packaging has had a considerable effect on how smokers view their cigarette packs. In addition, 12% of smokers admit they are now embarrassed to pull out their cigarettes in public (compared to 6% in 2016).
Nonetheless, this study failed to properly demonstrate just how influential neutral packaging has been for the sale of cigarettes. Indeed, in the past few months there has also been a successive rise in the price of tobacco, which makes it hard to know which strategy has had a bigger effect.
BAT advocates vaping as a legitimate alternative to smoking
Eric Sensi-Minautier, the spokesperson for British American Tobacco (BAT) does not believe that neutral packaging has had a major effect on cigarette sales. According to him, the stagnation of cigarette sales proves just how useless the new measures have been.
According to Sensi-Minautier, neutral packaging creates more problems than it solves. Not only does the uniform packaging style makes the tobacconists’ job harder, but it also leads to black market sales thanks to the simplicity of imitation packaging.
According to this representative from of one the biggest manufacturers in the industry suggests that public authorities should be promoting e-cigarettes, which is the only alternative, in his mind, to counter the high rates of tobacco in France.