Truthful Cigarette Packaging Hits Australia


Truth in advertising? Packaging that truly reflects the product enclosed? Well, sometimes it happens, and sometimes it doesn’t. Oftentimes a beautiful package is used to disguise the contents, and the side-effects of the contents. What we can’t see can’t hurt us. Or can it?

On December 1st of 2012 a new law went into effect in Australia relative to cigarette packaging. No longer can cigarette makers show colorful packages and eye-catching logos to induce consumers to smoke their products. Instead, the new packaging now shows real-life pictures of what happens to those people who smoke. Australian cigarette smokers now buy cigarettes in packages with graphic pictures of gangrene-mangled limbs, skeletal cancer victims, blindness, and throat cancer. The images take up the bulk of the packaging, and restricts company branding to using only the brand name (no logo) printed on the bottom of the package in plain text.

The goal of the new packaging is to cut smoking rates in Australia by five percent within the next six years. The Australian government is trying to both protect its citizens as well as save on health care costs; the country spends out roughly $33 billion annually on health care costs that result from smoking.

The jury is out on how the new packaging will affect sales – and smokers. While many people are reconsidering their choices, others are undeterred by the graphic images. Even when the truth is ugly and plain to see – consumers still maintain habits.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Show the Australian news report on the new packaging:
  2. Divide students into teams and have the teams come up with a list of other products that could use more truthful packaging.
  3. Have students research how American tobacco companies have responded to the Australian law.
  4. Discuss the role of legal products that have unethical impacts.

Source:, 12/4/2012, Bloomberg, Reuters, other news sources

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