Thursday, April 29, 2010

Kev buries ETS with smoking headline grabber

Kev. Come on.

We know you want to get less people smoking.

But since when did smoking, the ultimate symbol of coolness and rebellion, become less attractive when the Government tries to restrict it?

Sure. Raise the tax on cigarettes. You've done that today, sending the tax on cigarettes up by a whopping 25%, an average of $2.16 for a pack of 30. And we know from basic economics that this works. Whenever prices go up, there is an inverse relationship to the number of people consuming.

But Kev, while you're at it, why not raise the price of hospital treatment for smokers suffering from smoking-related disease? After all, why should the rest of us jealous lot stump up the cash for someone in hospital who's spent their life rebelling and looking cool.

We could have done that if we wanted, but we decided we'd much rather spend our time looking dowdy and boring reading books.

As mentioned on the 7pm Project last night, a brand of cigarettes called Death were popular a while back (black pack, skull and crossbones), while illegal drugs come in all manner of unbranded paper or plastic wrapping.

(Not that I'd know this from personal experience of course - AER Head being a wholesome early-rising athlete.)

But what this points to is something the fag companies know: packaging aint gonna make fags shift slower. In fact, Imperial Tobacco have already come out and said that there's no evidence to suggest that the brandless pack will decrease consumption.

However, there is a serious issue of how those who choose to smoke will be able to differentiate between brands. How will Tara Tarlungs or Gary Gangrene know which stick gives them a sense of prestige and film-star-like qualities, which one is the cheap, basic smoke for smoking alone, which one is the brand they trust to keep them looking rebellious and cool?

Kev, these are big questions for a smoker, and you're making it really difficult for them to choose their method of slow suicide.

In related news, some 'think tank' has claimed that your changes Kev will also lead to tobacco companies making expensive compensation claims for having their property acquired. So what? Stick sellers have admitted they're not going to be losing smokers, so clearly the compensation required is related directly to what something is worth.

Which, according to Imperial Tobacco is... well... nothing.

And if it came down to differentiation, about how to make one stick different from another stick, there's plenty left to change. What about the classic shape, colour and size? They've been pretty uniform until now. What about the fag boxes? Until now, consistent. What about the way shops display them, or the colour of the smoke?

Even something as subtle as the colour of the filter on a stick would be enough for a consumer to be satisfied that he or she has made the right choice.

So really, everyone's blowing smoke up their own pipes. By brandless packages, Kev's taking a vote-winning swipe at the big bad tobacco companies, in full knowledge that taxes are his real weapon of effectiveness. Plus, as my old mate Nathan Bush of BCM in Brisbane intelligently points out, it's a great way to bury bad news - like the scrapping of the emissions trading scheme.

On the other hand, you have tobacco companies crying foul, yet in the full knowledge that branding change will merely lead to yet another round of clever publicity-generating adaptation.

In its simplest terms, what we have here is:
  • the power of addiction plus subversive, fragmented advertising practice
  • versus
  • the power of price plus shock-tactic advertising strategy.
Traditionally, the Government concentrates on the bottom two, and as I've said before, has some way to go to make it's advertising campaigns truly effective.

If I were you, Kev, I'd take that $27.8m you're going to spend on anti-smoking campaigns and think much more carefully about the value you'll get while the planet burns. I'm all ears.


  1. Nice post mate but it's all fluff from old Kev. It was announced the day that he scrapped the ETS. Which do you think gets more attention? Personally, I don't care about smokers, if they want to kill themselves let them do it - there's more than enough restrictions for a legal product. What we can't do by ourselves is come up with a plan for environmental sustainability.. but obviously that's too hard. Arrrgh!!

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