The world’s ugliest color has been identified – and it has a mission. Cigarette packages will feature the horrendous hue in an effort to encourage people to quit smoking.
The Australian government got the ball rolling a few years back when they tasked research agency GfK Bluemoon to determine which color creeps everyone out. The answer: Pantone 448C – a greenish brown shade that was been described by study team participants as ‘death’, ‘dirty’ or ‘tar.’ In fact, no one could come up with a positive adjective to use when referring to 448C.
That is, except Leonardo di Vinci, who used the color to tint Mona Lisa’s dress.
Ugly Is Awesome
The color was deployed on cigarette packaging in Australia, with health warnings, and data indicates that since then tobacco sales have dropped. Between December 2012 and September 2015, there was an additional 0.55 percentage point fall in smoking prevalence among those aged 14 and above attributable to the packaging changes, according Australia’s post-implementation review. This equates to more than 108,000 people quitting, not relapsing or not starting to smoke during that period.
Consequently, the United Kingdom, Ireland and France have all passed “plain packaging” laws, including the use of 448C.
Plain (standardized) packaging of tobacco products can save lives by reducing demand for tobacco products, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Plain packaging of tobacco products restricts or prohibits the use of logos, colors, brand images and promotional information on packaging other than brand and product names displayed in a standard color and font style.
A spokesperson for Pantone says that the company’s official take on the situation is that no color is more beautiful or ugly than any other one. And they don’t agree that 448C is icky.
“At the Pantone Color Institute, we consider all colors equally,” explained Leatrice Eiseman, executive director. There was, she said, “no such thing as the ugliest color”. Rather, 448C was associated with “deep, rich earth tones”, and is especially popular as a color for sofas and shoes.
Other colors considered included lime green, white, beige, dark grey and mustard, but Pantone 448C won for its ability to ‘‘minimize appeal’’ and ‘‘maximize perceived harm.’’
This isn’t the first time 448C has been used to encourage a desired behavior. Angela Wright, a color consultant, told CNN about the American color consultant Faber Birren, who in the 1960s was asked to find a way to stop department store employees from taking lengthy bathroom breaks.
“The company asked him, ‘Can you improve the working area so they don’t have to leave all the time and use the restrooms?’ ” Wright said.
“Birren actually took a different view and painted the restrooms in a color similar to Pantone 448C. And nobody wanted to spend time in the restrooms after that.”
Tobacco and Your Health
Tobacco-related illness is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, according to WHO. Approximately 1 person dies from a tobacco-caused disease every 6 seconds, equivalent to almost 6 million people a year. This is forecast to rise to more than 8 million people a year by 2030, with more than 80% of these preventable deaths occurring among people living in low-and middle-income countries.
Smoking also has terrible effects on your oral health. Besides staining your teeth, smoking can contribute to the growth of plaque and tartar on tooth surfaces, which often leads to gum disease. Smoking can also have adverse impact on the strength of the connection between soft tissues and bone in the mouth, leading to periodontal disease and tooth loss.
Need support to quit? Check your state’s Stop Smoking program, many offer free tobacco cessation counseling and products that can help you quit. Try doing an internet search for your state’s name + “quit smoking” to get started. The Federal government offers smokers help here, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a long list of quit smoking resources here.
And book an appointment with your dentist for a cleaning and checkup – a fresh, bright smile can act as an incentive to stay away from tobacco.
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