United Kingdom to consider plain tobacco product packaging..

April 30, 2009 - on May 6th members of the House of Lords will vote on an amendment to the 2009 Health Bill to mandate plain packaging for all tobacco products. Plain packaging, also known as generic, standardised or homogeneous packaging, refers to packaging that has had the attractive promotional aspects of tobacco product packaging removed and the appearance of all tobacco packs is standardized.

A new study (Hammond et al. - session paper below) presented at the Joint Conference of Society for Research in Nicotine and tobacco (SRNT and SRNT-Europe) April 27-30, 2009, Dublin Ireland: has found a significant link between cigarette branding and ‘false beliefs’ among smokers and children. The authors argue that this link provides strong evidence for the introduction of plain packaging [3] for all tobacco products in the UK.

Lead author David Hammond said: “Research in the US, Canada, Australia and now the UK all support the case for tighter regulations on pack branding. Tobacco packages are portable advertisements that have long been used to reassure consumers about the risks of smoking. In this study, children as young as 12 reported significant levels of false beliefs about the risks of cigarette brands based upon the colours and words on UK packs. Plain packaging has great potential as a public health measure and I urge the UK Government to support this measure.”

PAPER CIGARETTE PACKAGE DESIGN AND PERCEPTIONS OF RISK AMONG UK ADULTS AND YOUTH: EVIDENCE IN SUPPORT OF PLAIN PACKAGING D. Hammond*1, M. Dockrell2, D. Arnott2, A. Lee1, S. Anderson3, and A. McNeill3,4; 1University of Waterloo, Canada; 2ASH, UK; 3University of Nottingham, UK; 4UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies.

UK Cigarette packages that give the impression that some brands are less harmful than others are illegal in the EU and prohibited under Article 11 of the FCTC. This study examined consumer perceptions of leading UK brands and evaluated the impact of “plain packaging,” in which colours and other design elements were removed. A total of 516 adult smokers and 806 youth (aged 11 to 17) participated in an online survey in 2008. Participants were shown pairs of cigarette packages and were asked to compare the packages on 5 measures: taste, tar delivery, health risk, attractiveness, and either ease of quitting (adult smokers) or which brand they would choose if trying smoking (youth). Compared to “regular” brands, adults and youth were significantly more likely to rate packages with the terms “smooth,” “silver,” and “gold” as lower tar, lower health risk, and either easier to quit (adults) or their choice of pack if trying smoking (youth). For example, compared to Mayfair King Size, Mayfair Smooth was rated as lower tar by 64% of youth, lower health risk by 54%, while 39% of youth indicated that they would prefer Mayfair Smooth if they were to try smoking. Similar perceptions were reported by adult smokers; in addition, 31% of adult smokers rated Mayfair Smooth as easier to quit. The use of colours had a similar effect: for example, both adults and youth rated a light grey package as lower tar and lower health risk compared to darker grey and red packages, which were otherwise identical. Plain packaging—where the colour and design elements were removed—reduced these misperceptions, as well as the perceived attractiveness of brands. Overall, the findings indicate that considerable proportions of UK youth and adults hold misleading perceptions of risk based on package design. The findings suggest that removing the terms “light” and “mild” is insufficient to eliminate misleading information from packages, and that plain packaging regulations would increase compliance with existing EU law and FCTC guidelines. Supported by Action on Smoking on Health (ASH) with funding from the British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research UK. CORRESPONDING AUTHOR: David Hammond, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Waterloo, Health Studies & Gerontology, 200 University Ave West, Waterloo, ON N2L 3G1, Canada; Phone: 519-888-4567 x36462;
Reference: Strong evidence supporting plain packaging for all tobacco products on the eve of Lords vote
ASH news release: Embargo: 00:00 Wednesday 29th April 2009

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