Chatter Box: An Online Glossary of Cigarette Packaging Design Elements

A cigarette package contains not only cigarettes but also meanings. This site explores the culturally informed meanings, or connotations, of the main physical, textual, and visual aspects of cigarette packs.

“The cigarette product is ultimately the same but by repackaging in a newer style of carton the perception of the brand can change and this can have a major effect on the sales.” 1

“Smokers are self-image buyers…they’re attracted to a cigaret [sic] not because it contains a better grade of tobacco but because it conveys an image they like to identify with. 2

“Today’s packs are certainly turning heads with glitz and glamour – flashy foils, fancy paperboard featuring unique curves, and etching and embossing that you just have to touch.” 3


This Glossary aims to be an authoritative source of information about cigarette package design elements. It includes clear definitions of design elements, and it identifies social functions that these elements serve. For instance, many elements imbue the product with messages of lifestyle or perceived (relative) strength.

This online glossary is only one part of the Chatter Box research project, which seeks to generate the evidence base needed to inform next generation tobacco control policies–such as the regulation of the use of cigarette packs for marketing purposes including the option for plain and standardized packaging.

About the Chatter Box Team

The Chatter Box project benefits from an experienced team comprised of investigators from across Canada including the University of Toronto (Ontario Tobacco Research Unit), Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, University of Guelph, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, University of Waterloo, and the Non-Smokers’ Rights Association.


Production of the Chatter Box website has been made possible through a financial contribution from Health Canada. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of Health Canada.


  1. Kidwell, Huw. Objects of desire: the latest in cigarette packaging. Available at: Accessed February 22, 2012.
  2. Koten, J. ‘Tobacco marketers’ success formula: Make cigarets [sic] in smoker’s own image. The Wall Street Journal 1980 February.
  3. Brinson B. “Sexy Packs”. Tobacco Reporter. Available at: Accessed July 20, 2011.