Australia’s ban on cigarette logos has gone into effect, after tobacco companies’ legal maneuvers were exhausted. Brightly colored cigarette packs were replaced on Saturday with standardized packaging in muted colors, showing pictures that illustrate the health consequences of cigarettes. The cigarette brands are the same as before, but are shown only in plain text.
The logo ban has had one immediate effect at least. The prominent cigarette displays in many stores are no longer so prominent. That is because the bright colors and strong contrast of the previous packaging is replaced by something that doesn’t call attention to itself from a few steps away. From the other side of the store, the new cigarette display might be mistaken for wood paneling or cardboard boxes. It is only when you get close enough to see the medical pictures that you see how repulsive the packages are. The combined effect — nondescript from far away, repulsive up close — creates the impression that the store is displaying the cigarette packages by mistake, and in a way, that is correct.
My hunch is that it won’t be long before retailers go to the next step of hiding the cigarette displays, a step that other retailers took as long as 20 years ago. Moving cigarettes to a less prominent location is an easy way to make a store look more welcoming and friendly to the majority of customers, all the more so now that the packaging colors have been taken away. Stores aren’t likely to stop selling cigarettes in large numbers, though — not until the number of cigarette smokers falls quite a bit more.