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Branding Ban: Australia To Require "Universal" Faceless Cigarette Packs

Starting later this year, all cigarettes sold in Australia must be packaged in absolutely identical greenish packets. Ciggies without a brand? Some say it could quietly kill the pleasure.

Anna Lietti

In hindsight, we look back at the camels and pyramids on Camel cigarette packets (just looking I said, no need to send in the army) and find it quite surprising that Egypt has never thought of demanding a 1% cut on all cigarettes sold. And the traveling community: What are they waiting for to launch a protest against the misuse of the gypsy image?

The Australian government, at any rate, doesn't intend to let kangaroos bounce unpunished across French packets of Winfield cigarettes; they won't allow their national symbol to be associated with the deadly product.

When it comes to the war on tobacco, Australia is the place to be. 2012 is going to be a good year for this country down-under, which is testing out the smoke-free world of tomorrow. The new law, which will come into force in December, offers a new outlook likely to change the face of modernity: Cigarettes of all brands will be sold in identical green-grey packets (which will obviously be covered with sweeping assertions about your imminent death).

I contemplate this new perspective with fascinated curiosity. Cigarettes without a brand? That's as unthinkable as a roast dinner without its smell. I am reminded of my 20-year-old self, dithering over two brands like they were dresses: Gauloise or Gitane? Which one suits me best? And then, unexpectedly, I discovered a third brand that was destined to mark me out as someone special. It was so effective that even now people say to me in a slightly dreamy way: "I remember you: you used to smoke Craven As!"

Of course, all that had nothing to do with the actual taste of the cigarettes. Not even a little bit? Less than you would imagine. An expert in the field explained to me that in blind tests, most people not only don't recognize their favorite brand, but they can't even distinguish between light and dark tobacco.

It is all about the brand and nothing to with the quality of the product, cigarette or not. That is a basic law of the consumer society. This is why the Australians, with their identical packets of cigarettes, are going to offer the world a completely new experience.

In kangaroo-land, cigarette buyers are going to find themselves faced with a wall of almost indistinguishable packets. For older shoppers who travelled before the fall of the Berlin Wall, this will surely remind them of the dreary appearance of the shops in East Berlin or Moscow. But with just one difference: Hidden behind the identical packaging, there will be a multitude of (supposedly) different products. To tell one from another, all buyers will have left is the product name and a memory of what the brand once evoked, a memory which will soon become blurred.

We will therefore have buyers who, deprived of the brand's imagery, will be forced into making their choice based solely on the product itself: Something we have never seen since the creation of the consumer society. How will they react? Will they surprise themselves and hate the ones they thought they loved to the downfall of the market leaders? Or will they find that, disappointingly, all cigs taste the same?

I imagine that the (very few) smokers who read this article won't believe the blind testing anecdote. And yet the same thing happens with beer tasting.

But it goes without saying that for cigarette makers, the experience will be very useful.

Read the original article in French

Photo - furuikeya

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Why Russia Is Suddenly Deploying Air Defense Systems On Moscow Rooftops

Russia is increasingly concerned about security from the sky: air defense systems have been installed on rooftops in Moscow's government quarter. Systems have also appeared in several other places in Russia, including near Vladimir Putin's lakeside home in Valdai. What is the Kremlin really worried about?

photo of ice on the river in Moscow

Clear skies, cold reality along the Moskva River

Anna Akage


The Russian Defense Ministry has refused to comment. State Duma parliamentary officials say it’s a fake. Still, a series of verified photographs have circulated in recent days of an array of long-range C-400 and short-range air defense systems installed on three complexes in Moscow near the Kremlin, as well as on locations in the outskirts of the capital and in the northwest village of Valdai, where Vladimir Putin has a lakeside residence.

Some experts believe the air defense installations in Moscow were an immediate response to recent Ukrainian statements about a new fleet of military drones: The Ukroboronprom defense contracter said this month that it completed a series of successful tests of a new strike drone with a range of over 1,000 kilometers. Analyst Michael Naki suggests that Moscow’s anti-air defense systems were an immediate reaction to the fact that the drones can theoretically hit Kremlin.

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Yet the air defense installations in Valdai seem to have been in place since late December, following Ukrainian drone attacks on a military airfield deep inside Russia’s Sorotov region, 730 kilometers (454 miles) southeast of Moscow.

Others pose a very different rationale to explain Russia’s beefing up anti-air defenses on its own territory. Russian military analyst Yan Matveev argues that Putin demanded the deployment of such local systems not as defense against long-range Ukrainian drones, but rather for fear of sabotage from inside Russia.

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