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The Smoking Gun

June 25th, 2009

Last week the Senate approved new legislation, which will potentially increase strict rules on the making and marketing of tobacco products. Restrictions like banning most tobacco flavorings, and reducing some of the 60 carcinogens and 4,000 toxins in cigarettes will affect production. Terms like “light” and “low tar” will also no longer allowed to be used.

There are also tighter rules governing the marketing and advertising of tobacco products. Black and white text-only ads will replace the familiar brightly colored, illustrated ads we see today in our local convenience stores and gas stations.

With these new advertising regulations a looming possibility for agencies who design for tobacco companies like Phillip Morris and RJ Reynolds, it’ll be interesting to see what kind of design comes from these new rules. DJ Stout of the world-renowned design agency Pentagram was commissioned by a local Florida newspaper to mock up what cigarette manufacturer Marlboro might do with these new guidelines. He suggests that “to comply with the crackdown, tobacco companies should embrace the restrictions and make cigarettes look truly dangerous. This, of course, will still appeal to a core group of smokers.”

Stout’s designs are classic Pentagram — clean and simply designed. Detailed black and white drawings of a skull and crossbones, or a skeleton carrying a coffin are the only imagery beyond the pack-covering text health warnings. He turns the entire pack into a three-dimensional warning label as opposed to current designs, which are rather small and tucked along the bottom of the pack.

These restrictions will be the first major step against smoking since the ’70s ban against television and radio advertising. The Association of National Advertisers says the act’s “unprecedentedly broad advertising restrictions violate the First Amendment protections for commercial speech.”

With new laws on the brink of approval, it’ll be interesting to see the changes in tobacco industry advertising.

Posted Under: Advertising, Art & Design
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