Disturbing – But Realistic – Images for Cigarette Packaging

Packaging is a critical component of marketing tactics. The package is an important tactic in connecting with the consumer and showing the value of the product. But, what happens when the packaging images are disturbing and show the consequences of buying the product? Will consumers choose to not buy the products?

This will soon be tested in the U.S. Recently, the FDA announced that it has a new set of images to be used on cigarette packs. A warning message and graphic will cover the top half of a cigarette pack. The new images are striking, especially when compared to the current packs and warnings. The new images portray diseases associated with smoking; the intent is to help improve the public’s understanding of the consequences of smoking. Images include warnings about lung and bladder cancers, diabetes, heart problems, blackened lungs, bulging tumors, and more.

The FDA’s suggested packaging is still under review and it isn’t known whether tobacco companies will fight the proposals. While the U.S. was the first nation to require warnings, the current warnings as seen as inadequate by the medical community. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 13.8% of U.S. citizens smoke (nearly 38 million people) and 480,000 people die each year from smoking-related issues, making it the nation’s leading cause of preventable death.

While one might think that the perils of smoking are widely understood, the World Health Organization in 2019 said that warning labels “are most effective when they are pictorial, graphic, comprehensive, and strongly worded.” Other studies have found that the graphic warnings reduce the appeal among youth.

What’s your opinion?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the importance of packaging as part of the marketing mix tactics.
  2. Divide students into teams. Have each team find examples of both strong and weak packaging.
  3. Show the new cigarette packaging in class: Video – https://youtu.be/1R8XUf-EI0k
  4. Visuals of the new labels can be found with a Google search: https://www.google.com/search?q=new+cigarette+packaging&client=firefox-b-1-d&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjv1PGjsLPkAhXLGDQIHbk-DckQ_AUIEigC&biw=1280&bih=606
  5. For more context, the WHO report can be found at: https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/326043/9789241516204-eng.pdf?ua=1
  6. Additional research from Cornell: https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2018/11/graphic-warnings-snuff-out-cigarettes-appeal-kids
  7. What are the students’ opinions of the new packaging?

Source: Kaplan, S. (15 August 2019). The FDA’s new cigarette warnings are disturbing. New York Times.

 

 

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