Plain packaging of tobacco products could cut smoking
Plain packaging of tobacco products would cut smoking, experts suggest.
For the study, 33 tobacco control experts from the UK (14), Australasia (12) and North America (7) were recruited. Professionals in these regions were targeted because these countries are currently considering (or have recently implemented) plain packaging for tobacco products. They were then interviewed about how plain packaging – packaging without brand imagery or promotional text and using standardised formatting – might impact the rates of smoking in adults and children.
The experts estimated that plain packaging would reduce the number of adult smokers by one percentage point (on average) two years after the introduction of plain packaging.
More impressively, they believe that generic packaging would reduce the percentage of children trying smoking by three percentage points (on average) two years after plain packaging is introduced.
Dr Rachel Pechey, first author of the study from the University of Cambridge”s Behaviour and Health Research Unit, said: “Given that the majority of smokers first try smoking in adolescence, the impact on children is of particular importance. Nicotine dependence develops rapidly after lighting up for the first time, even before the user is smoking once a week.”
The tobacco control experts indicated that plain packaging would reduce the numbers of children trying smoking because they expect younger people to be more affected by less appealing packs, less brand identification, and changes in social norms around smoking. This ties in with previous research that has described three ways in which plain packaging may reduce smoking rates, particularly among youth – by reducing the appeal of packs, by increasing the salience of health warnings and by standardising pack colour.
Pechey added: “Despite the consistency of experts” predictions that plain packaging would reduce smoking rates, many participants felt that the two-year time frame we used was insufficient and did not allow for the full impact of the packaging. This suggests generic packaging could have a greater impact over a longer term period, as the impact on young people starting smoking feeds through into the adult smoking statistics.”