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July 27th, 2013:

Cigarette plain packaging increases desire to quit smoking, says study

Cigarette plain packaging increases desire to quit smoking, says study


July 22, 2013

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Lucy Carroll

Cigarette plain packaging.

‘Encouraging results': Plain pack smokers were 81 per cent more likely to have thought about quitting.

Plain packaging has had a major effect on smokers, making cigarettes less appealing and increasing their desire to quit.

In the first study released since plain packaging was introduced in December, plain pack smokers said they were more likely to think their cigarettes were poorer in quality, less satisfying and to rate quitting as a higher priority in their lives.

The primary focus for plain packaging was always to reduce smoking among children.

Health experts hailed the find-ings as encouraging and likely to push other countries to follow Australia’s lead.

<em>Illustration: Rocco Fazzari</em>

Illustration: Rocco Fazzari

The research, funded by Cancer Council Victoria, surveyed 536 smokers during the roll-out of the plain pack legislation in November, when branded packs were still on sale.

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It found that 30.6 per cent of smokers using plain packaging said that their cigarettes were of lower quality than a year earlier, compared with 18.1 per cent of those using branded packs.

Plain pack smokers were 26.2 per cent less satisfied by their cigarettes than they were a year earlier, compared with 14.9 per cent of brand pack smokers.

The research also found that those using plain packaging were more likely to have thought about quitting at least once a day in the last week, and almost 70 per cent were seriously considering quitting in the next six months.

”The results are really encouraging. They are consistent with the objectives of the plain packaging act,” said Kylie Lindorff, acting executive director of Quit Victoria. ”That smokers are more likely to think about quitting is really important because other research tells us that the more frequent thoughts you have about quitting, the more likely you are to make a quit attempt.”

She said it was likely to give great confidence to governments in Ireland and New Zealand. Both countries have announced they will adopt plain packaging.

It may also prompt British Prime Minister David Cameron to review his stance on plain packaging after he backed away from plans to bring in new legislation, claiming there wasn’t ”sufficient evidence” to adopt the policy.

In December, Australia was the first country in the world to introduce the tough packaging laws, which banned branding and required graphic health warnings to cover 75 per cent of the package.

Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said smokers’ feedback was that cigarettes seemed to taste worse since plain packs were introduced, despite tobacco companies not changing the formula.

“Plain packaging of tobacco is as much about stopping our kids from taking up smoking as it is about encouraging existing smokers to quit,” she said.

Professor Mike Daube, president of the Australian Council on Smoking and Health, said the research was tremendously encouraging.

”Plain packaging provides smokers with that extra incentive to quit,” said Professor Daube. ”This makes the British government’s wait-and-see approach even more deplorable.

”It is clear that they have simply caved in to the tobacco lobby – a marked contrast to Australia, where plain packaging has had all-party support.”

A British American Tobacco spokesman, Scott McIntyre, said there had been no initial impact on tobacco sales after the move to unbranded packs. ”The tobacco market has remained stable. Consumers have not changed their purchasing behaviour,” he said.

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