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Taking the lead
In December 2012 Australia became the first jurisdiction to mandate plain (or standardised) packaging for tobacco products. Many governments have been looking on with interest, anxious to learn if this is also the next step forward in their own efforts to tackle the harms caused by tobacco. This special issue begins to answer this question by presenting a series of studies which provide an initial evaluation of the policy. What have been the early impacts of plain packaging on young people and adult smokers? And are there any unintended consequences—has it reduced prices, for instance, or encouraged illicit tobacco use?
The last word in tobacco marketing?
Plain packaging is the latest of many moves by policy makers to constrain tobacco marketing. It is over 50 years since the first tentative steps were taken, typically picking off TV advertising, but it was not until this century that the need for controls to be comprehensive was fully appreciated. Market forces, it became clear, dictate that any gaps will be exploited and promotional budgets moved to unregulated channels. The pack itself is one of the last of these promotional fall-backs. In recent years the literature has documented a seemingly endless flow of elaborate packaging innovations. It has also demonstrated how tobacco companies have used the pack to promote their products, mislead consumers about the harmfulness of smoking, and undermine the legally mandated health warnings. So even in markets that are otherwise dark, packaging continues to offer tobacco companies a glimmer of light, providing a last channel for conveying image, symbolism and brand meaning.1
From theory into practice
Until recently the evidence base for plain packaging has, perforce, been hypothetical. Australia's …
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