Packaging design analysis to support standardised packaging in ASEAN
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Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance, Bangkok, Thailand
Consumers Association of Penang, Jelutong, Malaysia
Publication date: 2021-09-02
Corresponding author
Tan Y. Lian   

Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance, Bangkok, Thailand
Tob. Induc. Dis. 2021;19(Suppl 1):A50
ASEAN countries should adopt standardized packaging in accordance with WHO FCTC guidelines (11 and 13) to eliminate advertising or promotional elements in tobacco products. Tobacco industry (TI) use unoccupied space left by any health warning on cigarette packs to entice smokers and non-smokers with promotional elements.

The study aims to analyze packaging designs and promotional elements used by TI to subvert existing regulations on Pictorial Health Warnings (PHWs) and tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship bans implemented in all ASEAN countries.

A multidisciplinary approach, e.g. semiotics and marketing techniques, is used to analyze 41 empty cigarette packs from eight ASEAN countries (Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam). Cigarette packs’ external and internal surfaces were analyzed for promotional elements.

The findings showed (1) cigarette packaging either in standard (rectangular) or non-standard packaging shapes and sizes, e.g. slims/superslims (lipstick pack); (2) flip-top lid versus one that opens like a wallet allowing much space for a lengthy descriptor on the inside; (3) kiddie packs (<20-stick) that make smoking affordable to the poor and the youth. The analysis revealed that larger PHWs greatly reduced the space for TI to advertise and promote the product on the pack. Observation shows that (1) TI’s brand and variant names are often in designer fonts, easily identifying the product; (2) promotional use of different packaging materials and colors combined with attractive graphic designs; (b) logo, colors, and graphics associated with brand identity; and (c) descriptors carrying advertisements in the guise of the company’s quality statement. Brand name, logo, trademarks, manufacturer’s information, and tar and nicotine levels appear on other panels of the packs.

TI’s marketing and promotion tactics shifted to cigarette packaging so as to circumvent a country’s tobacco control laws/regulations. As such, governments should immediately address these challenges by adopting standardized packaging.

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