Are plain cigarette packs really making a difference?

On 1 December 2012, Australia became the first country in the world to introduce mandatory plain cigarette packaging. Cigarette manufacturers were required to produce plain cigarette packs with a large of coloured graphic health warnings (GHW). The purposes of the legislation are:

  1. plain cigarette packaging studyReducing the appeal of tobacco products to consumers
  2. Increasing the effectiveness of health warnings
  3. Reducing the ability of packaging to mislead consumers about the harmful effects of smoking

The Cancer Institute’s Tobacco Tracking Survey (CITTS) has conducted a telephone survey to interview adult smokers in New South Wales. This is the first study that examines the impact of plain cigarette packs on adult smokers’ responses and perceptions.

It came out that the plain packs resulted in significant changes to how smokers perceived their cigarette packs. The study found that the prominent GHW makes it the only thing smokers see on the packs, that they feel have to hide or cover the packs, and worry that they should not be smoking, even encourage them to quit the habit.

The result of the study is shown in the table below. Please note that the research results were represented as strongly disagreeing. For example, for the perception of the attractiveness of the pack, 26% strongly disagreed that their cigarette pack was attractive before the plain packs, and 80% strongly disagreed that their cigarette pack was attractive three months after the introduction of plain packs.

Smokers strongly disagreeing about the look of their cigarette pack
Perception Before Plain Packaging 3 Months AfterPlain Packaging
Attractive 26% 80%
Say something good about them 27% 76%
Influences the brand they buy 27% 77%
Makes their brand stand out 22% 78%
Fashionable 27% 80%
Matches their Style 31% 77%


BMJ Open published the study here.

Image: Melanie Tata – flickr


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