In December 2012, Australia introduced ban on tobacco branding becoming the first country to launch plain cigarette packaging
According to its plain-packaging law, all cigarettes are offered for sale in standardised, drab-coloured packs with graphic pictures of tobacco-related illnesses on the front and back. Under its supporters, pictures of rotted lungs and charred teeth are not the pictures Marlboro Man or Joe Camel want to project.
After Australia’s decision, New Zealand has made an announcement it would follow suit. France and Britain are also looking at similar actions.
Of the four cigarette firms that deal with most of the world’s trade outside China – Philip Morris, British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco – only Imperial still gets most of its revenue from so-called adult markets such as Western Europe.
Dr Sanjay Basu decided to foresee the effects of smoking on future TB rates with colleagues from the University of California. They stated that most new tuberculosis cases will be in Africa, the Eastern Mediterranean and Southeast Asia, all big tobacco markets.
In 2012, Brazil – BAT’s single greatest market by income – banned flavoured cigarettes such as menthol becoming the first country to do this.
It also raised cigarette taxes. In Uruguay, graphic warnings must currently cover 80 % of a cigarette packet, while smoking outdoors is prohibited near hospitals and schools.
Big tobacco markets such as Russia, Turkey and Indonesia have also started to tighten tobacco rules and increase taxes.
Unsurprisingly cigarette firms are fighting back, especially against rules that considerably minimize their ability to connect with consumers through brands.
One result of tighter global tobacco rules has been cigarette firms investing in less-harmful alternatives, such as electronic or e-cigarettes.
In 2011 BAT’s new chief executive, Nicandro Durante, introduced Nicoventures, a £100m investment into cigarette alternatives such as nicotine vaporisers and inhalers.
Philip Morris, the manufacturer of Marlboro cigarettes, intends to release what it identifies as a healthier variation of its flagship brand in 2016.
But the challenges remain powerful. In the US a federal court lately prohibited the government from demanding tobacco companies to place health warnings on packs by reason of that they broke the companies’ right to free speech.
Subsequently, China, where about a third of the world’s smokers live and the state has big investments in cigarette makers, the enforcement of smoking bans outside the main cities is lax.
Governments, especially in emerging markets, will continue having to stabilize the advantages of tobacco’s tax earnings with the costs related to treating sick smokers.