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How the ugliest color in the world might save lives

Flickr/The Killing Fields

Studies have shown that different colors can evoke different emotions; yellow makes you feel happy while blue makes you feel peace and tranquility.

A recent study has shown that a new color, number 448C on the Pantone color chart, will only make you feel disgust. Opaque couché — voted the ugliest color in the world  — has become the next best marketing tool for global health authorities attempting to discourage smoking.

GfK Bluemoon, a market research company working with the Australian government to reduce the number of smokers, reported that nearly 1,000 smokers described this color as the world’s most repulsive color.  

Australia has decided to use this information to their advantage by requiring all cigarette packages to be this color.

‘‘We didn’t want to create attractive, aspirational packaging designed to win customers,” GfK market researcher Victoria Parr told the Sydney Morning Herald. “Instead our role was to help our client reduce demand, with the ultimate aim to minimise use of the product.’’

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), tobacco is one of the biggest public health threats to individuals, killing nearly 6 million people per year — or approximately one person every six seconds. Of those deaths, nearly 5 million are because of direct use of tobacco products, while more than 600,000 are a result of second-hand smoke killing non-smokers.

Currently, WHO reports that there are 1 billion smokers worldwide, and roughly 80 percent of smokers live in low- to middle-income countries. This is problematic because tobacco users who die prematurely deprive their income, raise the cost of health care and hinder economic development.

Children from poor households are frequently employed on tobacco farms as a way to provide income for their families. This makes these children more susceptible to green tobacco sickness, a type of nicotine poisoning caused by handling tobacco leaves.

The GfK Bluemoon research study was initiated to combat tobacco use. Pantone 448C was chosen to appear on cigarette packaging labels to deter users. This color was commonly described as “death,” “dirty” or “tar,” Parr said.

Australia has mandated “plain” packaging for cigarettes, displaying Pantone 448C and health warnings in type larger than the brand names. The packages also display graphic images of rotting teeth, tongues covered in tumors and abnormally tiny newborns.

Since the new packaging appeared on shelves, Australia has seen a 55 percent decrease in cigarette sales among smokers aged 14 and older.

This marketing ploy has been so effective that other governments, including the UK, Ireland and France, have begun to follow the trend. Additionally, graphic images and warnings must cover 65 percent of cigarette packages in Europe and can cover up to 85 percent of packages in India.

“Plain packaging reduces the attractiveness of tobacco products,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan. “It kills the glamour, which is appropriate for a product that kills people.”

This new packing will restrict tobacco advertising and promotion, limits misleading packaging and labelling and increases effectiveness of health warnings, she said.

This plain packaging is going global as countries seek to decrease the amount of smokers.

“It is encouraging to see more and more countries defy the industry’s tactics and implement plain packaging to reduce demand for tobacco products and put the health of their populations first,” says Dr. Douglas Bettcher, WHO’s director for the prevention of NCDs.

Who knew such an ugly trend would catch on?