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SMOKERS are almost twice as likely to notice health warnings on tobacco products that have packaging free of advertising, according to a report.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) said its study of almost 3,000 smokers and ex-smokers in Australia and the UK found that the number of those in Australia who took notice of health warnings almost doubled after tobacco packets were stripped of branding there in December 2012.

The BHF’s Standardised Packaging for Tobacco Products report said just a third (34 per cent) of smokers and ex-smokers noticed the health warnings before any other information in 2010, compared with two thirds (66 per cent) after the legislation was implemented.

In the UK, where branded packaging still exists, just 24 per cent of people noticed the health warnings before other messages such as advertising.

The report also found 82 per cent of Australians did not like the look of tobacco products after standardised packaging was introduced.

The BHF said support for the new legislation in Australia among smokers and ex-smokers had almost doubled from 28 per cent in 2010 to 51 per cent in 2013, noting that just over a third (37 per cent) of smokers and ex-smokers in the UK backed standardised packaging being enforced here.

The Scottish Government supports plain packaging for tobacco and ministers at Westminster said in April last year that they expected to proceed “as swiftly as possible” with the measure.

BHF chief executive Simon Gillespie said: “The evidence couldn’t be clearer.

“Stripping tobacco products of their branded packaging means important health warnings have more impact. These are toxic products so it’s vital these messages are communicated clearly.

“Standardised packaging is an effective and important public health measure which is already having a significant impact in Australia.

“There can be no more delay and the UK Government must act now to make sure standardised packaging is law before the election.”

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