Smokers getting marginalised

Are smokers getting marginalised into extinction?

Plain packaging works

In Australia, there is evidence of smokers getting marginalised into extinction. Australia was the first country in the world to introduce plain packaging. Plain packaging is anything but plain. The front and back of all cigarette packs have sickening photos of tobacco related illnesses. All logos and corporate colour schemes are removed and replaced by a drab brown background. The only indication of the brand is a tiny panel on the front.  Every brand name is laid out in exactly the same size and  typeface. There is almost no way of telling one brand from another.

The result of this is that the percentage of people smoking is plummeting in Australia. The government has pledged to keep increasing the cost of cigarettes each year until they are unaffordable. All of this would be expected to lead to what is being seen, a fairly rapid reduction in people smoking.

Smokers getting marginalised

But the government campaign has had an odd side effect. It is not just targeting smokers. It is also having an effect on non-smokers. Over many years laws and regulations have restricted where smokers can smoke. It started with banning smoking in restaurants. Then smoking was banned in pubs.  Later this was extended to every public indoor area. Smoking was banned in jail. Employers started banning smoking in the workplace. So smokers started congregating outside.

This led to the creation of "smoking hot spots" where smokers congregated. To break up this "public nuisance" many states have extended the bans even further. Smoking is banned within 10 m of any playground and on railway platforms, taxi ranks, and bus stops.

The result is that smokers are now being herded into less and less attractive places. The only place they can smoke are places no one else wants to be. The result is a change in public perception. Smokers are getting associated with the places where they smoke. Dirty unpleasant places equals dirty unpleasant people.

So there is increasing social pressure from non-smokers to clear out these smoking places. In the long run this may be just as effective as putting up the price.

David Mason

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