(RxWiki News) Consumers are told not to judge a book by its cover, but sometimes it’s hard not to. For cigarette smokers, the way the package is designed does seem to have an impact on its appeal.
A recent study found that cigarette smokers who smoked from plain-designed packages were more likely to feel their cigarettes were lower in quality and to feel less satisfied with the cigarettes compared to smokers who had brand-designed packages.
In addition, plain pack smokers were more likely to think about quitting at least once a week compared to brand pack smokers. Among adult smokers, these findings show that plain packaging was linked with lower smoking appeal and more urgency to quit, according to the researchers.
"Quit smoking now."
This study, led by Melanie Wakefield, from the Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer at the Cancer Council Victoria in Carlton, Australia, aimed to see whether different designs for cigarette packages affected smokers’ beliefs about smoking and their thoughts on quitting.
The researchers compared a plain package design, as designated under Australia’s plain packaging law, to the designs of normal branded packs among smokers in Victoria, Australia in November 2012.
The plain packaging law, which was implemented September 1, 2012, required all tobacco products manufactured for sale in Australia to be contained in plain, dark brown packs. Three-quarters of the design included graphic health warnings and required the brand name to be set in a standard font size and type.
Plain packaging aimed to reduce the appeal and attractiveness of tobacco, according to the researchers.
More than 530 smokers who were recruited over the phone took part in the study. About 72 percent smoked from a plain pack of cigarettes and a little less than 30 percent smoked from a branded pack.
Participants were asked about the quality of their cigarettes and how satisfied they were with them compared to one year ago.
The participants also reported how often they thought about the harmful effects of smoking, whether they thought the effects were exaggerated and whether they approved of the graphic health warnings and plain packaging.
In addition, participants reported how often they thought of quitting and whether they intended to quit.
Compared with branded pack smokers, the researchers found that those who smoked from plain packs were 66 percent more likely to feel their cigarettes were lower in quality and 70 percent more likely to feel less satisfied with their cigarettes than a year ago.
In total, 30 percent of the plain pack smokers and about 20 percent of the branded pack smokers thought the quality of their cigarettes was lower than a year previous. A quarter of the plain pack smokers and 16 percent of the branded pack smokers thought their satisfaction with the cigarettes was lower than a year ago.
The plain pack smokers were also 81 percent more likely to think about quitting at least once a day over the last week and rate quitting as a higher priority in life compared to brand pack smokers.
The two groups of smokers did not differ on the number of times they thought about the harmful effects of smoking or whether they thought the harmful effects were exaggerated.
The level of appeal that smokers had with the different package designs varied depending on the extent that the plain package law was enforced.
Among branded pack smokers, the level of appeal with the cigarettes approached similar levels to that of plain pack smokers once 80 percent of the participants were smoking from plain packs at least 1-2 weeks before the plain package law was implemented.
Differences in availability or choice could explain why smokers chose a plain pack of cigarettes over a branded pack, according to the researchers.
“We noted that the proportion who thought the harms had been exaggerated was not higher for plain pack smokers with the larger graphic warnings, than for branded pack smokers,” the researchers wrote in their report. “We also found similar proportions of branded and plain pack smokers who supported the larger graphic health warnings, with a majority supporting it.”’
The findings were similar to those of similar studies performed in Australia, the UK and other countries where plain package cigarettes are available, the researchers said.
The authors noted that some branded packs smokers might have smoked from a plain pack previously, which could reduce the differences between plain and branded pack smokers.
Further, the authors also noted that their study did not look at how plain packaging by itself and the graphic health warnings individually affected their findings.
This study was published online July 22 in the journal BMJ Open.
Two of the authors received financial support from Quit Victoria, which funded the study. The researchers said they were independent from the funder. No other conflicts of interest were reported.