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Converting a want into a need

The population of smokers worldwide is alarmingly huge. Just what makes smokers cave in to the habit without qualms? The answer is on the box! Christel Lee of Asian Flexo reports.

Controversially, smoking is deemed unhealthy, in spite of the media painting a "cool" picture of it. There are reportedly 1.1 billion smokers in the world today. It is said if current trends continue, that number is expected to increase to 1.6 billion by the year 2025. Research published in an Australasian marketing journal by Cancer Research UK suggests that women are more sensitive to tobacco packaging and more likely to be influenced by packet design than men!

The study performed by Stirling University examined smokers' attitudes to cigarette packaging through eight focus groups in Glasgow, comprising 54 smokers aged between 18 and 35. The respondents were asked about their attitudes towards different packaging. Each was designed to open either like a book, slide open sideways or made to resemble a lighter with a flip top. Men were generally not influenced by the different designs, with none indicating they would change their brand for the sake of the design.

The report added ladies are more receptive to a particular design and the adjectives used were "cute", "cool", "pretty", "glamorous" and "sophisticated"! Some feedback indicated that the packaging suggested cigarettes were less harmful – words used included "they don't look as bad for you".

Colour me bad

Apparently, how a cigarette packet looks determines the sale, just like any other product packaging. This is notwithstanding many nations putting strict regulations on marketing and advertising of tobacco products. Recently, Singapore has implemented a regulation on the packaging of tobacco products prohibiting misleading labelling, including the use of words such as 'mild', 'light' or 'low tar'.

The research mentioned earlier had respondents assess the colours of a cigarette package and share their impressions. Nearly all smokers associated coloured, plain packets (white, green, light blue, red) – that only had health warnings and no name, description or tar or nicotine levels – with cigarette strength. Red packs were seen as full strength, green as menthol, and light blue and white thought to be low or ultra low tar.

When shown four differently coloured plain packets (grey, beige, dark grey and dark brown) all groups disliked them. They were described as looking cheap, bland, dull, boring and unattractive. The lighter coloured packets were said to be more attractive than the darker ones. The lighter colours were seen to indicate less harmful cigarettes.

Although some smokers thought the dark grey was a negative colour – associating it with ash and death – it was the dark brown pack that was disliked the most. It was variously described as horrific, ugly and associated with excrement, dirt, mud, tar and rust.

Dr Crawford Moodie, lead researcher based at the University of Stirling, said: "It's clear that smokers react to tobacco packaging in different ways and women appear to be particularly receptive to this silent salesman. Indeed, it was found that even after removing the branding from packaging, slim shaped packaging was still perceived quite positively by some women."

Disclaimer: This article is based on researched facts It bears no intent to promote smoking as a lifestyle. Any negative connotation implied about entities involved in the tobacco industry is unintentional.

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