19 Mar 2015

Cancer Council: Plain cigarette packaging successful

7:05 pm on 19 March 2015

The first comprehensive evaluation of Australia's ground-breaking plain packaging tobacco laws shows they are working, the Victorian Cancer Council says.

Fourteen separate studies on the impact of plain packaging in its first year were published today in a special supplement to the British Medical Journal.

Māori health specialists are calling on the Government to lower nicotine levels in cigarettes.

Photo: Supplied

The research found that after the laws were implemented, there was a "statistically significant increase" in the number of people thinking about and making attempts to quit smoking.

Cancer Council Victoria researcher Professor Melanie Wakefield said before plain packaging about 20 percent of people made attempts to quit over the course of a month.

"After plain packaging, that went up to nearly 27 percent of people who made quit attempts," she said.

Professor Wakefield said the enlarged warnings also had an major impact on smokers.

Key findings

  • Reduction in 'perceived appeal' of packages, particularly for adolescents, young adults
  • Suggestions plain packaging encourages thinking about quitting and quit attempts
  • No evidence of increase in the consumption of illicit cheap cigarettes
  • Smokers surveyed a year after the new packs were introduced were more likely to conceal their packs from view, stub out their cigarettes prematurely and attempt to quit.
  • The large graphic warnings on cigarette packs also put young people off, with the appeal of cigarette packs and brands decreasing significantly.

    "That's really an important outcome because high brand appeal and brand image is very important in terms of predicting young people taking up smoking," Professor Wakefield said.

    She said they expected more countries to follow Australia's lead in the future.

    "These results should give confidence to countries considering plain packaging that plain packs not only reduce [the] appeal of tobacco products and increase the effectiveness of health warnings, but also diminish the tobacco industry's ability to use packs to mislead consumers about the harms of smoking," she said.

    The tobacco industry had complained that plain packaging would result in a collapse of prices and the use of illegal tobacco.

    "These studies found no evidence of either of these effects," Dr Michelle Scollo, a member of the study team said.

    - ABC

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