Israel May Soon Make It Mandatory to Sell Cigarettes Packaged With No Logos and 'The World's Ugliest Color'

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Duty-free cigarettes on sale at London's Heathrow Airport.
Duty-free cigarettes on sale at London's Heathrow Airport.Credit: Roni Linder

The days when Israeli smokers will be able to choose between a Camel with a camel on the package or a Marlboro with its coat of arms could be ending soon. The brands will still be available but they will come in standard packaging, shorn of logos or illustrations, and will include an oversized health warning.

The change will be mandated by a law which the Knesset will vote on in the coming weeks.

On Monday, the Knesset Economics Committee begins deliberations of the legislation, known as the Law for Restricting Advertising and Marketing of Tobacco Products, with the aim of bringing the bill to its second and third readings in the full Knesset soon.

If the bill passes in its current form, cigarette packages will be designed to make them as unattractive as possible and reduce brand differentiation to almost nil, with the hope of deterring current and future smokers.

The law will require the wording on cigarette packages to be in a single color, known in the industry as Pantone 448 C, a drab dark brown that is popularly known as the “ugliest color in the world.”

If that’s not enough, all typefaces on the package will be of a single, unadorned font. The name of the product will be in smaller letters and logos will be banned. Nearly two thirds of the front and back of the package will have to contain a health warning.

The only concession tobacco companies are getting is that Israel won’t require graphic photographs of the damage smoking does to the body, as many other countries have imposed. Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, whose ministry otherwise backs the law, deemed such images “unaesthetic.”

The law, which was initiated by Eitan Cabel (Zionist Union) and Yehuda Glick (Likud), may yet undergo additional changes demanded by interest groups. Last Wednesday, the Health Ministry exempted the makers of electronic cigarettes from many of the rules. Among other things, they will not have to adhere to the single–package design rule, the warning will need to cover only 30% of the package and its wording will be different than for ordinary cigarettes.

However, e-cig makers, like Juul, will still be subject to the ban on tobacco advertising and rules requiring merchants to conceal tobacco products.

Israel isn’t the first country to impose such draconian rules on tobacco products. Australia was the pioneer when it imposed even tougher rules in 2012. It was the Australian government that conducted surveys to find what color people regarded as the least appealing and came up with Pantone 448 C, which has been described as a cross between tar and dirt.

The World Health Organization recommended two years ago that national regulators impose the single-packaging standard.

Among those fighting to ease the rule is the Israel Airports Authority. TheMarker reported two weeks ago that it lobbied lawmakers to drop the requirement that it move cigarette displays in duty-free stores to somewhere out of view, on the grounds that it would reduce sales.

“All financial harm to the authority harms the entire public and the Israeli economy – and could even lead to a downgrade in service and security for the traveler and higher fees,” the IAA contended.