About This Project
Packaging is an important marketing tool for tobacco companies, helping to capture attention, create brand awareness, foster positive brand attitudes and communicate product attributes. For smokers, the pack is their personal choice, a statement of their identity, something that stays with them wherever they go and something that it is typically seen countless times a day. The pack turns a generic product into a bespoke marque. Even for non-smokers, tobacco packaging is a familiar feature of life, whether within shops, as litter or in the hands of smoking friends and relatives. It is unsurprising, then, that tobacco companies have been very creative in their use of all elements of the pack – colour, shape and design, the cellophane wrapper, inserts, and the cigarette itself – to communicate the positive qualities of the product and the brand.
Governments have also recognised the importance of packaging as a communications tool. Health warnings, for instance, first appeared on cigarette packs almost half a century ago in the UK, and over time have increased in size and now include pictures. These warnings are a cost-effective and credible means of informing of the health risks of smoking. From May 2017 standardised packaging will be implemented, which will essentially leave all packs looking the same and make the health warnings stand out even more.
Much more could still be done with the packaging however. For instance, pack inserts are an inexpensive means of communication, and have been widely used by tobacco companies. Could the use of inserts, with positively framed messages encouraging smokers to quit and promoting self-efficacy to do so, be of value within the UK? There is also the cigarette itself, which tobacco industry journals refer to as an increasingly important promotional tool. While at a very early stage, academics have begun to explore the possibility of using the appearance of the cigarette to deter smoking, for instance unattractively coloured cigarettes or cigarettes displaying health warnings. Further research exploring these ideas, or the many other potential ways to reduce the appeal of cigarettes, would be of significant value.
There are likely many other possibilities of using the pack to discourage non-smokers from starting and encourage smokers to stop. Supposing, for example, the pack had an audio warning when it was opened? Or it featured a Quick Response barcode on the pack that could direct smartphone users to a stop-smoking service, or similar innovations using barcodes, like augmented reality, which could direct the user to social networking campaigns. The options are many and varied. As the Scottish Government has set a target date for reducing smoking prevalence to less than 5% of the population, and packaging is seen as a crucial platform for health promotion, this PhD could help generate ideas that could help reach this target.
This PhD would have two key objectives:
• To explore the range of possible health promoting packaging innovations, and
• To explore how consumers respond to some of these measures.