Plain Packaging: Imperial Tobacco Australia Pre-empts Legislation

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Image 1. Screen grab of trade magazine advert for Peter Stuyvesant Australia September 2012.1

Image 2. Screen grab of Peter Stuyvesant packaging Australia September 2012.2

On the 1 December 2012, plain packaging was introduced in Australia. Cigarettes are be required to be sold in olive green packaging with large pictorial health warnings and brand names appearing in standardised font. In the lead up to the legislation, from 1 October 2012, cigarette packaging produced in Australia had to be the approved new plain packaging.

On the 12 September 2012, it was reported in the media that Imperial Brands (previously Imperial Tobacco) had changed the packaging of their Peter Stuyvesant brand ahead of the introduction of plain packaging.12 Peter Stuyvesant packaging was been changed to show a ripped branded pack exposing plain packaging underneath (Images 1 and 2). The accompanying slogan said “it’s what on the inside that counts”.

Australia’s Federal Health Minister, Tanya Plibersek spoke out against Imperial’s part plain packaging and its catchphrase. Plibersek is quoted as having said, “For a company to have produced packs that contain the line, ‘It’s what’s on the inside that counts’ must surely be the ultimate sick joke from big tobacco… Diseased lungs, hearts and arteries are the reality of what is happening on the inside to a smoker.”

Imperial stated that their packaging was created to advise consumers of Peter Stuyvesants that the brand will shortly be changing colour. A spokeswoman for Imperial said. “It is important to inform our adult consumers that the product itself will remain unchanged.” 3

Speaking on the ABC News today in Australia on the 12 September 2012, Plibersek claimed that the Imperial campaign is a “last desperate attempt for them [Imperial] to use their branding to retain and attract new smokers…”

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  1. abS. Gardiner, Plain package row: tobacco company resorts to ‘sick joke’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 12 September 2012, accessed September 2012
  2. abJ. Pearlman, Australian tobacco accused of ‘sick joke’, The Telegraph, 12 September 2012, accessed September 2012
  3. ABC News, New cigarette pack slogan a ‘sick irony’, Australia Broadcasting Corporation, 12 September 2012, accessed 2012