Intended for healthcare professionals

Letters Plain cigarette packaging

The tobacco industry is terrified of plain packs

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 06 March 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e1617
  1. Simon Chapman, professor of public health1
  1. 1University of Sydney, School of Public Health, Sydney, NSW, Australia
  1. simon.chapman{at}

Snowdon’s report on plain packaging for the Adam Smith Institute is clearly a mélange of spurious rubbish.1 But is it spurious rubbish funded by big tobacco? Snowdon’s website once had a (now removed) notice saying he was not tobacco industry funded ( The report says nothing about its funding. However, when questioned about the independence of his report on Radio 4’s Today programme on 20 February, Snowdon acknowledged that the Adam Smith Institute receives “less than 3% of its turnover” from tobacco companies and extended this invitation to listeners: “If you want to disregard the report’s finding on that basis then go ahead.”

He argues that plain packs will make counterfeiting easier, on the assumption that plain packs will be dull cardboard boxes. In fact, they will have full colour graphic warnings and be no easier to forge than current packs, which as one Hong Kong counterfeiter told an Australian TV reporter are “100% easy” to counterfeit ( If prices fall, governments can increase tobacco tax and force retail prices up, as they regularly do now.

On page 6 Snowdon writes: “Plain packaging . . . neither informs nor educates. On the contrary, it limits information.” But on page 12: “Cigarette packs do not provide information, they do not make claims, and they do not seek to persuade.” Please make up your mind, Mr Snowdon.

The accuracy of Snowdon’s research might be judged by this. He writes that I co-founded BUGA UP, the Australian antitobacco graffiti group. This is news to me and all who were in BUGA UP. I co-founded a group called MOP UP.2 And Snowdon calls himself “an historian.”

The tobacco industry is terrified of plain packs. Its frenzied global actions to challenge plain packaging via courts, tribunals, and reports like this speak volumes about what it fears it will do to its deadly business. Bring it on.


Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e1617


  • Competing interests: None declared.


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