Benson and Hedges increased sales by €100m with packet re-design

Sales rise attributed to ‘silver slide’ pack, fuelling argument around plain packaging

In a bid to fight off plain packaging, tobacco companies have voiced support for health warnings to cover nearly the entire packet

In a bid to fight off plain packaging, tobacco companies have voiced support for health warnings to cover nearly the entire packet

 

The manufacturers of Benson and Hedges increased the sales of one of its brands in 2007 by nearly €100 million-a-year in the United Kingdom on the back of a major redesign of its pack - the biggest increase that took place that year.

Japan Tobacco International, according to a study by the University of Stirling, later “explicitly attributed” the sales rise to the successful introduction of its Benson & Hedges “Silver Slide” pack, which was brought onto the market in late 2006.

Cigarette packaging is now “the primary marketing tool in jurisdictions with tight marketing controls”, according to the research carried out by Crawford Moodie and Gerard Hastings from Stirling’s Institute for Social Marketing.

Six years ago, Japan Tobacco International relaunched its “Mayfair” brand, using inserts in the packs telling smokers, firstly, that a redesign was coming, along with later messages saying that the cigarettes were produced “to the highest quality”.

Saying that the marketing contravened UK tobacco advertising restrictions, Moodie and Hastings argued: “Clear lessons emerge from the Mayfair case. Firstly, the cigarette pack is being used to undermine public policy.”

Meanwhile, the scientific journal, “Addiction” reports that plain-packing laws already introduced in Australia help to lower “the unconscious triggers” that encourage smokers to light up, but also help to dissuade non-smokers, or early-stage addicts not to go further.

“The tobacco industry should consider itself fortunate that, purely through historical precedent, it is allowed to sell its toxic products at all, let alone try to make them attractive through the packaging,” Professor Ann McNeill of King’s College, London.

In a bid to fight off plain packaging, tobacco companies have voiced support for health warnings to cover nearly the entire packet - but this leaves them the opportunity to use colours, or other images to convey the brand.

“One of the things that people get wrong is that is a deterrent for people who are already smoking. No. It isn’t,” said Professor Robert West, editor-in-chief of “Addiction”, “The main point is to prevent the tobacco industry from (using it) as an advertising, or promotional tool.”

“We have closed off most of the other routes: TV advertising, for example. But the pack is still potentially a very important tool for what is essentially a lethal product,” the London-based academic went on.

The evidence so far from Australia suggests, Prof McNeil told a London briefing, that smokers adopt different attitudes to cigarette branding, once once-powerful traditional symbols on packets are removed by law.

There, smokers are less likely to display packs on tables in outdoor public places, more likely to keep packs in pockets, or hand-bags and “less likely to place them face up” on the tables - and these habits have been tracked across all ranges in society, she said.