Standardised cigarette packaging 'makes smokers more likely to quit'

In collaboration with the Press Association

Smokers are more likely to consider quitting if their cigarettes are contained in plain, standardised packaging, an Australian study suggests.

Those who bought cigarettes in standardised packs were 81 per cent more likely to have thought about giving up smoking at least once a day in the previous week and saw quitting as a higher priority than those using branded packs, according to research published in the journal BMJ Open.

The standard pack smokers were also 66 per cent more likely to think their cigarettes were poorer quality than a year ago.

And they were 70 per cent more likely to say they found them less satisfying, the study shows.

The researchers carried out interviews with 536 cigarette smokers in the state of Victoria during November 2012.

At that time plain, standardised packs were already available in the period before the world first legislation came in that required all tobacco sold at retail outlets to be contained in plain packs.

Of the interviewees, 72.3 per cent were smoking cigarettes from standard packs, while the remainder (27.7 per cent) were still using branded packs displaying less prominent health warnings.

The standardised brown packaging - made mandatory for all tobacco products sold in Australia from December 1, 2012 - is accompanied by graphic health warnings taking up three-quarters of the front of the pack.

As well as being asked about their level of satisfaction with their cigarettes and their intentions to quit, the smokers were also asked for their views of the standardised packaging policy and whether they felt the dangers of smoking had been overplayed.

The researchers discovered there was little difference between the standardised pack smokers and the branded pack smokers in terms of their perception that tobacco harm is exaggerated or how often they thought about the damage cigarettes might be doing to their health.

But the non-branded pack smokers were 51 per cent more likely to support the standardised packaging policy than those in the branded pack group.

Kate Alley, Cancer Research UK's tobacco policy manager, said: "This new evidence from Australia confirms what we already know, selling cigarettes in standardised packs makes smoking less appealing and encourages smokers to quit.

"When cigarettes aren't disguised by flashy packaging and carefully crafted branding, smokers see them for what they are - a lethal product which kills half of its long term users.

"100,000 people die of a smoking-related illness and 207,000 children take up smoking every year in the UK. 85 per cent of the British public want Government action to reduce the number of children who smoke. The Government should stop stalling and introduce standardised packs in the UK as soon as possible. Any delay will cost lives."

Copyright Press Association 2013

References

Wakefield M. et al (2013). Introduction effects of the Australian plain packaging policy on adult smokers: a cross-sectional study , BMJ Open, 3 (e003175 ) DOI: