Media Power: Cigarette Package Design in China

Author: Xiaolong Zhang, Xi’an Jiaotong Liverpool University, China
Published: January 26, 2022

Citation: Zhang, X. (2022). Media Power: Cigarette Package Design in China. IAFOR Journal of Cultural Studies, 6(2).


Chinese tobacco packaging can be viewed as complex advertising practice. On the one hand, the cigarette pack is used to attract consumers, and on the other hand, it plays a role in health communication for discouraging smoking in China. When these two functions are mixed together, the media effect of the cigarette pack is supposed to be ambiguous and blurred. However, media effects of tobacco packaging in China seem to be lopsided: it is very effective in attracting consumers, but largely ineffective in discouraging smoking. What causes this phenomenon? Since the cigarette pack functions as a medium in the Chinese market, it has the power to asymmetrically influence the actions of others, but its power is subservient to the will of those who empower it. By using literature-based and focus groups methods, that the is piece of research finds that the incomplete health communication effect of cigarette packs is due to various reasons, such as political, economic, and cultural ones. The most influential factor is political, as the tobacco industry in China is entirely at the mercy of the government. The media effects and effectiveness of the package depend mainly on the government’s will, interests, and values.


China, health communication, media effects, media power, tobacco packaging design