Australian Newsagency Blog

A blog on issues affecting Australia's newsagents, media and small business generally.

BBC making a documentary on tobacco and plain paper packaging

Mark Fletcher
February 19th, 2014 · 6 Comments

I have been contacted by a producer working with the BBC on a documentary¬†about smoking and the tobacco industry, and one of the issues they are looking at is plain packaging. Here’s part of the email explaining the project and their need:

We are very interested to find out what the consequences have been for retailers.

We are filming in Melbourne in early March, and we would really like to film with a newsagent owner, to talk about how things have changed since plain packaging was introduced. For example: Are sales up or down or the same? What do the customers say about plain packaging and the graphic warnings. Is it worthwhile continuing to sell cigarettes?

Also we would like to film some visual footage of the shop layout – concealed tobacco products etc. Perhaps film re-stocking shelves, or shipment of cigarettes arriving the store.

The documentary is being made by BBC producer Michael Rudin and presenter Peter Taylor. It will be broadcast in the UK later this year. The UK is currently debating whether they should introduce plain packaging – which is why we hope to look at how it is going in Australia.

If this is something you contribute to please email me and I’ll pass your details on.


Category: Tobacco sales

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jonathan Wilson // Feb 21, 2014 at 5:51 PM

    Back when the legislation was being debated, several organizations claiming to represent small retailers claimed that it would make their job harder. I do wonder if their jobs have really been made harder by plain packaging or whether those organizations were just being paid bribe money by the tobacco companies to spread FUD.


  • 2 david // Feb 21, 2014 at 8:39 PM

    mine was jonathan a lot harder come try it some time


  • 3 George McCracken // Feb 21, 2014 at 10:36 PM

    Mark, I am the Associate publisher of the UK’s biggest independent retailer magazine, Asian Trader. I have just returned from Australia on Monday and I went there to see the tobacco display situation for myself. I also spoke to leading figures Jeff Rogut in Melbourne and Bob Stanton in Perth for a piece I am running in the next issue of the magazine. I was stunned by the situation in Oz and if we have the same situation in the UK, there is no doubt that retailers in the UK will go out of business. I might contact the BBC to share my findings and help point them in the right direction.




  • 4 Mark Fletcher // Feb 22, 2014 at 7:00 AM

    George there are two district issues in play here: the health issue and the retail revenue issue.

    While the health benefits will take at least another two years to play out, there are suggestions they will be good, fewer people will smoke.

    On the revenue issue, retailers need to plan and run their businesses as if nothing is forever. We also need to plan for balance so that if one product category fails we have strength elsewhere to navigate our future.


  • 5 rick // Feb 22, 2014 at 12:34 PM

    the latest price hikes would be the reason behind falling smoking rates, not plain packaging or hiding them. as sales continue to fall and more retailers stop selling them, those that continue to sell them might find themselves as a destination for cigs. im in a rural high street and at 5.30 in the morning there is only one of the servos and myself that now sells cigs. i charge more than the local iga and probably more than the servo, but anyone out of cigs will pay the price. i admit that sales are falling as more people quit, i think there is enough $$$ to stay in this space for a while yet.


  • 6 Dean // Feb 23, 2014 at 10:49 PM

    In WA we had to have doors put on the cigarette displays so the packets of cigarettes were hidden. This was years ago and may have been the same Australia wide. Customers could see we sold cigarettes because they knew what was behind the closed doors. When plain packaging came in, it really made little difference as the customer would ask (as they did before) for their cigarettes and would be handed a plain packet, instead of a blue or red pack. The real difference was the time it takes staff to restock the plain packaging. From a retailers point of view that was the biggest problem.

    In saying all that, Cigarette sales have decreased. Is it because they are behind closed doors, TV advertising, or in plain package?? I’m not sure . But, in my opinion, the less sold Australia wide the better.

    People have a right to choose to smoke and while it is profitable I will sell them. I will continue to introduce new products into my business and delete products when necessary. It is foreseeable that cigarettes will be deleted in the future and I am comfortable with that.

    The UK should do what ever it takes to reduce death and disease caused by smoking.


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