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Standardized Packaging Of Tobacco Products May Reduce Smoking, Especially Among the Youth

A collection of research papers and commentaries, peer-reviewed, were published in the journal Addiction under the title “Plain Packaging: Weighing up the evidence on standardized packaging for tobacco products” to reaffirm key parts of the evidence base, collected from years 2008 to 2015, for standardized packaging of tobacco products and its influence in reducing smoking rates and preventing lung diseases.

A recent announcement by the English government on new regulations regarding standardized packaging will be put to a vote before the general election that is set to take place in May 2015. In the event the vote is passed, England will be the second country worldwide to mandate standardized packaging, following Australia’s lead. Further, there is a strong possibility that this new measure would also be introduced in the other jurisdictions of the United Kingdom. These documents evidence the growing awareness of the potential of standardized packaging in reducing smoking.

Major findings say that plain packaging might reduce smoking in those who are current smokers since it reduces the influence of the packaging as an unconscious trigger for smoking impulses.

Further, following Australia’s 2012 policy, simple packages with larger pictured health warnings printed on it reduced smoking in outdoor and public areas such as restaurants, cafés and bars since the majority did not keep their packs on the tables. Current variations on package shape, opening method and size may also have an influence on the brand appeal and smoking risk perceptions which in turn increase cigarette sales. By removing the images regarding the brand from the cigarette packets, experimental adolescent smokers pay more visual attention to the warning health signs; however, adolescents that smoke daily remain indifferent. Standardized packaging could in fact be much more effective than large health warnings when it comes to undermining the appeal of cigarette brands and reducing the urge to buy cigarettes.

Ann McNeill, a professor who wrote the collection’s introduction, said in a press release: “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 standardized packaging.”

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