17 February 2015
The scientific journal Addiction has today published a collection of peer-reviewed research papers and commentaries that bring together key parts of the evidence base for standardised packaging of tobacco products from 2008 to 2015.
The English government recently announced that it will be putting regulations on standardised packaging to a vote before the general election in May 2015. If the vote is passed, England will be the second country in the world to mandate standardised packaging, following Australia’s example, and there is a strong likelihood that the measure would also be introduced in the other jurisdictions of the United Kingdom.
This collection documents the growing evidence base on the likely effectiveness of standardised packaging in reducing smoking.
Key findings are:
- Plain packaging may reduce smoking rates in current smokers by reducing the extent to which the package acts as an unconscious trigger for smoking urges.
- Following Australia's 2012 policy of plain packaging and larger pictorial health warnings on cigarette and tobacco packs, smoking in outdoor areas of cafés, restaurants, and bars declined, and fewer people made their packs clearly visible on tables.
- Consumer research by the tobacco industry between 1973 and 2002 found that variations in packaging shape, size and opening method could influence brand appeal and risk perceptions and thereby increase cigarette sales.
- Removing brand imagery from cigarette packets seems to increase visual attention to health warnings in occasional and experimental adolescent smokers, but not among daily adolescent smokers.
- Standardised packaging could be more effective than larger health warnings in undermining the appeal of cigarette brands and reducing intention to buy cigarettes.
Professor Ann McNeill, who wrote an introduction to the collection, says “Arguably, for an addictive product that kills so many of its users, the tobacco industry should consider itself fortunate that, purely through historical precedent, it is allowed to sell its toxic products at all, let alone try to make them attractive through the packaging. However, it is evidence on the likely public health impact that is the primary basis for the policy on standardised packaging.”
Professor Robert West, Editor-in-Chief of Addiction, says “Even if standardised packaging had no effect at all on current smokers and only stopped 1 in 20 young people from being lured into smoking it would save about 2,000 lives each year.”
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The collection is available from the Wiley Online Library: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/%28ISSN%291360-0443/homepage/plain_packaging.htm or by contacting Jean O’Reilly, Editorial Manager, Addiction, firstname.lastname@example.org, tel +44 (0)20 7848 0853.
Media seeking interviews with Professor Ann McNeill may contact her through Louise Pratt at Kings College London by email (email@example.com) or telephone (+44 20 7848 5378/+44 7850 919020).
Media seeking interviews with Professor Robert West may contact him at University College London by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or telephone (+44 020 7679 6633).
Addiction (www.addictionjournal.org) is a monthly international scientific journal publishing peer-reviewed research reports on alcohol, illicit drugs, tobacco, and gambling as well as editorials and other debate pieces. Owned by the Society for the Study of Addiction, it has been in continuous publication since 1884. Addiction is the number one journal in the 2013 ISI Journal Citation Reports Ranking in the Substance Abuse Category (Social Science Edition). Membership to the Society for the Study of Addiction (http://www.addiction-ssa.org/) is £85 and includes an annual subscription to Addiction.