Tomorrow sees the final implementation of new regulations which mandate that all cigarettes and tobacco must be sold in standardised “plain” packaging. As a part of the countdown, today’s article looks at how hand rolling tobacco is affected. See our factsheet for more information.
During the course of this week we’ve been looking at the influence that cigarette packaging has on consumer behaviour. Hand rolling tobacco is also included in the new regulations on standardised “plain” packaging. There are also new rules governing pack sizes and the use of price marking.
The proportion of smokers using hand rolling tobacco is increasing. In 2013 it was recorded that 40% of male smokers were predominantly using rolling tobacco, along with 23% of female smokers. This was a big increase from 1998 when the figures were 25% of male smokers and 8% of female smokers. 
There are a number of things that will change about this branded, price-marked pack of Amber Leaf hand rolling tobacco, made by Japan Tobacco International.
Firstly, the image branding will go. The Amber Leaf logo, which works hard to imply a natural, positive product (note the green background with shining, luxuriant leaves) will be removed, replaced by larger pictorial health warnings and drab, standard, olive-coloured backgrounds. The branding also works to imply that hand rolling tobacco is less harmful than machine made cigarettes. This is terribly misleading and rolling tobacco is at least as harmful. 
Secondly, the price marking will no longer be allowed. As you may have seen in yesterday’s article, price is a key factor in encouraging people to quit. Removing these price marked packs, which imply economy and good value, will help.
Thirdly, the pack size is too small for the new regulations. From tomorrow, hand rolling tobacco must be sold in a minimum pack size of 30 grams, while cigarettes must be sold in packs of at least 20 sticks. Minimum pack sizes are being introduced to make tobacco less available to children and young people. Smaller packs are cheaper and therefore more likely to be “affordable” for children and young people. Since most smokers become addicted in childhood, everything we can do to #ActOnTobacco and restrict access to this deadly product by children and young people will contribute to ending the tobacco epidemic sooner.
Measures such as visual branding, price-marking and pack sizing are crucial to the tobacco industry, which is why they fought so hard, and at great expense, to do everything they could to prevent the new regulations. Standardised “plain” packaging represents a landmark achievement for public health in the UK.
While the UK is a world leader in tobacco control, it’s important that we work to support similar legislation elsewhere to tackle the global harm caused by the tobacco industry.