Plain packaging seems to increase thoughts about quitting smoking

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 22 July 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f4665
  1. Zosia Kmietowicz
  1. 1BMJ

Plain packaging for cigarettes reduces the appeal of tobacco and makes smokers think more about quitting, early findings from a survey in Australia have indicated.

Australia is the first country in the world to legislate for plain packaging for tobacco products, and introduced brown packaging with graphic warnings taking up three quarters of the front of the packet in December 2012.

The research, published in BMJ Open, involved interviews with 536 cigarette smokers in the Australian state of Victoria during November 2012 when plain packs were being rolled out.1

The researchers wanted to find out what effects the policy was having in the early stages and whether it reduced the appeal of tobacco. They found that almost three out of four smokers (72%) were smoking cigarettes from plain packs, while the rest were still using branded packets with smaller health warnings.

Compared with smokers still using brand packs, smokers using plain packs were 66% more likely to think their cigarettes were poorer quality than a year ago. And they were 70% more likely to say that they found them less satisfying.

Smokers using plain packs were also 81% more likely than smokers using brand packs to have thought about quitting at least once a day during the previous week and to rate quitting as a higher priority in their lives.

As more people switched to plain packs because of the legislation, people who had been smoking cigarettes from branded packs began to think that their cigarettes were less satisfying in the same way as those who had been using unbranded packets for a while.

The researchers said that this could simply reflect the reduced likelihood of being able to smoke from a brand pack or “social contagion.”

But, they concluded, “The finding that smokers smoking from a plain pack evidenced more frequent thought about, and priority for, quitting than branded pack smokers is important, since frequency of thoughts about quitting has strong predictive validity in prospective studies for actually making a quit attempt.”

The researchers added, “Overall, the introductory effects we observed are consistent with the broad objectives of the plain packaging legislation. We await further research to examine more durable effects on smokers and any effects on youth.”


Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f4665