Tob Control 17:361-362 doi:10.1136/tc.2008.027755
  • Editorial

The plain truth about tobacco packaging

  1. Gerard Hastings1,
  2. Karine Gallopel-Morvan2,
  3. Juan Miguel Rey3
  1. 1
    University of Stirling and the Open University, Stirling, Scotland, UK
  2. 2
    University of Rennes 1, School of Business Administration, Rennes, France
  3. 3
    University of Cadiz, School of Business Administration, Cadiz, Spain
  1. Gerard Hastings, Institute for Social Marketing and the Centre for Tobacco Control Research, University of Stirling and the Open University, Stirling FK9 4LA, Scotland, UK; gerard.hastings{at}
  • Published Online First 20 November 2008

Hymenopus coronatus (the Malaysian preying mantis) has a cunning hunting technique. It disguises itself as an orchid; its four walking legs are exquisite replicas of petals and its lethal jaws blend into the background. This makes it beautiful to behold, but for the lizards and insects that are its prey, ruthless and deadly. What looks like a flower, and an enticing source of nectar, is actually a death trap.

The tobacco industry has learnt well from H coronatus. It camouflages its deadly product in elegantly decorated packages making them look on the one hand uniquely attractive and on the other just like any branded product. Thus they acquire exclusivity and legitimacy. Like H coronatus, tobacco companies also succeed in hunting and killing small creatures. It is abundantly clear that young people are drawn into smoking by branding and that liveried packs play an active role in this process.

The UK Government is therefore to be applauded for its proposal to mandate plain packaging for cigarettes.1 This would involve removing all distinctive signs from packs leaving only the name of the brand in a standard colour and font, along with the legally mandated information.2 It’s the equivalent of turning H coronatus into a piece of couch grass.

The evidence for the harm done by liveried packs …

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