The Pantone colour that will stop you smoking

Colour theory isn't just about making things attractive. Now the UK government is weaponising it in the fight against Big Tobacco.

The success or failure of our design work often comes down to one or two fundamental decisions, such as colour. So you'll find plenty of advice on colour theory on Creative Bloq.

But most of these tips are about making your colour choice appealing. Sometimes, though, you want to go in the opposite direction. That's what the UK goverment is planning to do with a new law expected to be passed today, preventing the use of attractive colours in cigarette packaging.

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Colour has become one of the few tools in Big Tobacco's arsenal following the imposition of branding and packaging restrictions by governments worldwide. As this research found, "brightly coloured and attractive branded packs can reduce perceptions of the harmfulness of cigarettes". So, for example, in the UK Lambert & Butler Lights have become Lambert & Butler Gold and Superkings Lights have become Superkings Blue.

Packet of Lambert and Butler cigarettes

Tobacco firms have used colour to fight back against branding restrictions

Pack shape has also been used in conjunction with colour to convey particular messages. For example, "narrow and thin cigarette packs have recently been introduced on the UK market. [They] feature a clean-looking package design, used to reflect purity ... lighter ('healthier') colours such as white, green, pink and purple, and often include flower imagery, symbolic of nature."

To fight back, the UK government plans to follow in the footsteps of Australia by making Pantone 448 C the only colour you can use on cigarette packs.

As you can see below, it's a pretty ugly hue. But is it ugly enough to make a difference?

Pantone 448 C

Tobacco firms can have any colour they like, as long as it's Pantone 448 C

If Pantone 448 C doesn't work, we're not sure what's left to try. Maybe an image of a diseased lung stencilled onto the cigarette itself? Watch this space…

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom May is a freelance writer and editor specialising in design and technology. He was previously associate editor at Creative Bloq and deputy editor at net magazine, the world’s best-selling magazine for web designers. Over two decades in journalism he’s worked for a wide range of mainstream titles including The Sun, Radio Times, NME, Heat, Company and Bella. Follow him on Twitter @tom_may.