Evidence and information

Why do we need standard packs?

Cigarette packs are designed to be attractive and communicate the ‘personality’ of a brand.

Our evidence shows that removing branding from cigarette packaging will reduce the attractiveness of tobacco products to children. It closes the advertising loophole tobacco companies exploit to market their deadly products.

An Executive from a large tobacco company said:
"Our final communication vehicle with our smokers is the pack itself. In the absence of any other marketing messages, our packaging is the sole communicator of our brand essence. Put another way: when you don’t have anything else, our packaging is our marketing."

Standard packs are...


  • 8 in 10 smokers start by the age of 19, beginning an addiction that kills one in two long-term users
  • There is substantial evidence that advertising and promotion draw young people into smoking and that packaging is an important part of tobacco promotion. Standard packs build on the success of the advertising ban. You can read our full report on The Packaging of Tobacco Products (PDF, 3,828KB) for details of this evidence


  • 85% of people back Government action to reduce the number of young people who start smoking (YouGov, 2012)
  • 63% of people support standard packs with only 16% opposed (YouGov, 2012)
  • Over 230 health and welfare organisations support standard packs, including the Royal Medical Colleges and health charities – as well as the World Health Organisation
  • 85% of all mothers and grandmothers with children under 18 believe that children should not be exposed to any tobacco marketing (YouGov, 2013)


  • Australia already has standard packs and early research shows that they appear to make cigarettes less appealing.
  • International experts say standard packs will not increase the illicit trade – all the existing security features will still be in place on standard packs. The illicit cigarette market is declining - HM Revenue & Customs say it has halved in the last decade.

Key facts

  • Standard packs will NOT make packs easier to forge or increase smuggling.Tobacco packets are already easy to forge so covert markings are used to detect smuggled packs. These markings will remain on standard packs, along with the health warning images.
  • Standardised packaging is NOT illegal due to trademark rights. International treaties on Intellectual Property have opt-outs for public health. Standard packs do not break Intellectual Property law as trademarks aren’t being taken away from tobacco companies, they will only regulate how trademarks are used.
  • We will NOT lose tax if standard packs are brought in. Cigarette taxation contributes £10bn to the Treasury every year, but the cost to society has been estimated to be well over £13bn. This includes costs to the NHS, lost productivity from smoking breaks, increased absenteeism and the lost economic output from people who die from smoking. No figure can be put on the cost in human suffering of people dying and losing relatives.
  • Standard packs will NOT affect local shops. The aim of the campaign is to reduce the number of teenagers who start smoking (adults will still be free to purchase cigarettes), which will result in a gradual reduction in sales long-term and give shops a chance to adjust. Research from Australia has shown that standard cigarette packs have also not caused sales staff any problems in serving customers i.e. the time to identify and retrieve cigarettes has stayed the same. And, peer-reviewed research has suggested standard packs, stocked in alphabetical order is likely to actually speed up this process.
  • Standard packs will NOT necessarily lead to other products’ packaging changing. Tobacco is unique as it’s the only legal product that when used as it’s intended, kills half of all long-term users, which isn’t true of any other product.

The tobacco industry

In an interview leading industry analyst Adam Spielman estimated that plain, standardised packaging will halve tobacco industry profit margins. It’s therefore unsurprising, that an international tobacco company have stated "we don’t want to see plain packaging introduced anywhere regardless of the size and importance of the market."  Read this interview.

Internal tobacco industry documents from the late 1990s show that tobacco companies have been investing in pack design to ensure that their products are appealing to young people.

They also provided evidence of the importance around recruiting new smokers. This is because of the high brand loyalty to the first brand smoked, and the low rates of switching brands.

Make standard packs a reality

The Government has set out its intention to bring in standard cigarette packs. But we're not there yet. Ask your MP to put pressure on the Government to press ahead.

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Setting the Standard

The Government has set wheels in motion to bring in standard cigarette packs. Join our campaign and help prevent young people from taking up smoking.

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