They’ve been in circulation in France since the beginning of the year but they’ve just landed in the UK. Neutral cigarette packaging, which is supposed to make the brand less recognisable to young consumers, has hardly crossed the Channel and the manufacturers in the field are already stepping up their creativity to get around the new text of law.
The first prize for the most cunning deception goes without a doubt to Marlboro. A few days before the introduction of neutral packaging, the brand, belonging to the PhilipMorris group, put ‘reusable’ metal packets into circulation which can hold 10 cigarettes. These packets, which look like the previous ones, have the same legal statement “Fumer tue” (“smoking kills”), but no trace of shocking images, and the colour of the packaging stays the same as that of the brand.
Karen Reeves-Evans, member of the Tobacco Control and Research Group at the University of Bath, England, responded to this in a column of The Sun newspaper: “By offering this kind of packaging, Philip Morris International is knowingly extending the shelf life of packets of 10 cigarettes and promoting their brand”. “It’s an immature ‘move’”, said Alex Cunningham, Labour Member of the British Parliament. “I hope people will quickly put them in the bin, and then they will find their way to the recycling centre”
For their part, the Philip Morris group assures us that only a “very limited number” of packages were put in circulation and that the stock quickly ran out.