Australia’s plain cigarette packs are ‘putting teens off smoking’

In collaboration with the Press Association

The introduction of plain, standardised packaging for cigarettes in Australia is putting teens off taking up the lethal addiction, according to new research

"It’s extremely encouraging that the evidence shows standard packs are doing their job by turning young people off smoking"George Butterworth, Cancer Research UK

An Australian study, published in the Journal of Tobacco Control, found that almost a third of teens (31%) who tried smoking or who had previously smoked said plain packs made them less likely to smoke again.

The research, from the Cancer Institute NSW, also found that 4 in 10 teen smokers (41%) either tried to quit or thought about quitting as a result of plain packs. 

Nearly 1 in 5 teens (18%) who had never previously smoked admitted they wouldn’t start as a result of plain packs.

The findings come from the Tobacco Promotion Impact Study (TPIS), which included a yearly telephone survey of adolescents and young adults (12–24 years) from the states of New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland.

Data from more than 8,800 people were collected three times before standardised packaging was introduced, and once following its introduction.

George Butterworth, Cancer Research UK’s tobacco policy manager, said the findings were “extremely encouraging”. 

“The evidence shows standard packs are doing their job by turning young people off smoking, and even encouraging young smokers to quit,” he said.

Professor David Currow, chief cancer officer and CEO of the Cancer Institute NSW, said the key to a smoke-free future is to prevent young people from taking it up in the first place. 

Standardised packaging laws were passed in Australia in 2012. The UK brought in similar laws in May 2016, while the legislation is due to take effect in Ireland in May 2017. 

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Butterworth added that these latest findings support the move to introduce standardised packaging in the UK.

“It’s vital that we protect children from the harms of tobacco, and this research shows the UK’s decision to introduce standardised tobacco packs will help to do this,” he said.

The study also found that among smokers aged between 18 and 24 years old – a group with a higher than average smoking rate – a third reported that they had tried to quit or thought about quitting as a result of plain packs. 

Updated packaging is also affecting young people, with 60% of 12-17 year olds and 67% of 18-24 year olds backing the legislation, according to the new research.

References

  • Dunlop, S., Perez, D., Dessaix, A., & Currow, D. (2016). Australia's plain tobacco packs: anticipated and actual responses among adolescents and young adults 2010–2013. Tobacco Control. DOI: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2016-053166