11A.0 Introduction

Last updated: November 2018

Suggested citation: Scollo, MM, & Greenhalgh, EM. InDepth 11A.0 Introduction. In Scollo, MM and Winstanley, MH [editors]. Tobacco in Australia: Facts and issues. Melbourne: Cancer Council Victoria; 2018. Available from: http://www.tobaccoinaustralia.org.au/chapter-11-advertising/11a-0-introduction

Plain (or standardised) packaging is a measure which requires tobacco products to be sold in packages with a standardised design, without images, colours, fonts, textures, finishes, scents, or other such design features, other than those explicitly permitted by the legislation.1 No advertising or promotion is permitted inside or attached to the package or on individual cigarettes. Usually, plain packaging measures will allow a brand and variant name in standard font and size to be placed on the pack.1 They also specify particular colours and finishes to be used, require the pack to be in a standardised shape, and mandate the inclusion of certain manufacturer information and consumer disclosures on the pack. Plain packaging is generally implemented in combination with large graphic health warnings on the principal display areas of the pack.2

Plain packaging aims to implement article 113  of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) by reducing the ability of the pack to mislead consumers under article 11.1(a) and increasing the salience of health warnings under article 11.1(b), and article 134 of the WHO FCTC by removing advertising, promotion, and sponsorship on tobacco product packaging. The article 11 guidelines note that plain packaging ‘may increase the noticeability and effectiveness of health warnings and messages, prevent the package from detracting attention from them, and address industry package design techniques that may suggest that some products are less harmful than others’ (paragraph 46).3 The article 13 guidelines note that ‘[p]ackaging and product design are important elements of advertising and promotion. Parties should consider adopting plain packaging requirements, to eliminate the effects of advertising and promotion on packaging’ (paragraph 17, recommendation).4

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1. World Health Organization and Secretariat WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Tobacco plain packaging: Global status update. Geneva: WHO, 2018. Available from: http://www.who.int/tobacco/publications/industry/tobacco-plain-packaging-global-status-update/en/

2. FCTC; McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer. Challenges in domestic and regional courts to large graphic health warnings (WHO FCTC Article 11). UN Tobacco Control, 2017. Available from: http://untobaccocontrol.org/kh/legal-challenges/domestic-courts/graphic-health-warnings/

3.  Conference of the Parties to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Guidelines for implementation of article 11: Guidelines on packaging and labelling of tobacco products. Adopted at third session, Durban South Africa 17-22 November 2008: World Health Organization, 2008. Available from: http://www.who.int/fctc/guidelines/adopted/article_11/en/

4.  Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Guidelines for implementation of article 13 (tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship). Decision FCTC/COP3(12) Geneva: World Health Organization, 2008. Available from: http://www.who.int/fctc/guidelines/article_13.pdf


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