Australia Study Showing Plain Cigarette Packaging Works Should Embolden Governments to Follow Their Example

(New York, USA) – World Lung Foundation (WLF) today welcomed a study on the impact of plain, standardized packaging in Australia, published this week in the British Medical Journal. This first formal study of the impact of plain packaging confirms that it does lead to negative feelings about smoking and increases the number of smokers thinking about quitting.

The researchers found that compared to smokers of branded cigarette packs, smokers who used plain cigarette packs with large front-of-pack health warnings, were: 

• 66 percent more likely to think their cigarettes were of poorer quality than a year ago
• 70 percent more likely to say that they found cigarettes less satisfying than a year ago
• 81 percent more likely to have thought about quitting at least once a day during the previous week
• more likely to rate quitting as a higher priority in their lives
• 51 percent more likely to back the plain pack policy than were brand pack smokers.

Peter Baldini, Chief Executive Officer, World Lung Foundation, commented: “Big Tobacco uses colorful packaging and branding as strategic measures to attract new customers, especially youth, and to mislead consumers about the health impacts of smoking. Health experts have long argued that when cigarettes packs are not being used as marketing tools that consumers will see smoking for what it is - a costly and deadly habit.

“This study proves that to be the case; the removal of branded packaging even makes consumers perceive that cigarettes taste different, a belief that has the industry scurrying to convince consumers the product is the same – even as the same companies claim that standardized packaging will not have an effect on public health.

Mr Baldini concluded: “Governments, especially those that have hesitated, should take this study and the industry’s reaction as a green light to push ahead with standardised packaging legislation. This research essentially tells us there is no reason to wait if governments want to protect people from tobacco marketing.”

The study was based upon research conducted in November 2012 by Cancer Council Victoria, which polled the attitudes and opinions of 536 smokers in the state of Victoria. The research was conducted during a transition period when branded cigarette packs were still available for sale alongside plain packs, just before plain packaging became mandatory. Of the 536 respondents, nearly three-quarters (72.3%) were smoking cigarettes from plain packs while the remainder (27.7%) were still using branded packs with smaller health warnings.