07/22/2013 04:11 pm ET

Plain Packaging On Cigarettes Could Help Stop-Smoking Efforts


Here's one way to make cigarettes less appealing: Make the packaging boring.

A new study from Australia shows that people find cigarettes less satisfying and of poorer quality when they come in plain packaging. They also think about quitting smoking more frequently than people whose cigarettes come in a branded package.

The findings, published in the journal BMJ Open, are based on data from 536 smokers in Victoria, Australia. Australia is the only country to require plain packaging for all tobacco products, as well as big graphic health warnings that take up the majority of one side of the packaging; this went into effect in December 2012.

"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," Kate Alley, who is the tobacco policy manage for Cancer Research UK, told BBC News.

For the study, participants were interviewed by phone before, during and after the plain-packaging started. The researchers found that 72.3 percent of the participants were smoking cigarettes from the new plain packs, while 27.7 percent were smoking cigarettes from branded packs.

Researchers asked the participants a number of questions about their perceptions of smoking and cigarettes. Between those who smoked cigarettes from plain packs and those who smoked cigarettes from branded packs, they found little difference in their thoughts about how bad tobacco was to their health, as well as the frequency with which they thought about cigarettes' damage to their health.

They did find people smoking cigarettes from the plain packs were 66 percent more likely to consider their cigarette quality worse from the last year, and 70 percent more likely to report the cigarettes were less satisfying. Plus, they rated quitting as a higher priority in their lives than those who smoked from branded packs, and 81 percent more likely to consider quitting smoking once a day (at least) for the past week.

However, Bloomberg reported that despite the plain packaging on the cigarettes, legal tobacco sales figures were unchanged for the first six months of the new rules on packaging.



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