Plain packs prompt more to quit

Cathy O'Leary Medical Editor
Graphic warning: Plain packs prompt more to quit. Picture: Supplied

Drab cigarette packaging and graphic images of gangrenous feet seems to encourage smokers to give up, according to research.

The first study into the effects of plain packaging, introduced into Australia last December, has found it makes cigarettes less appealing and increases the resolve to quit.

Cancer Council Victoria surveyed more than 500 smokers, of whom almost three-quarters were smoking cigarettes from plain packs, with the rest using cigarettes from branded packets with smaller health warnings.

The findings, published in the online journal BMJ Open, found the policy had an impact, at least in the short term.

The rate at which smokers thought about the damage cigarettes caused differed little between the groups but plain-pack smokers were 51 per cent more likely to back the plain-pack policy than were brand-pack smokers.

Plain-pack smokers were more likely to think their cigarettes were poorer quality than a year earlier and to say they found them less satisfying. They were 81 per cent more likely to have thought about quitting at least once a day during the previous week and to rate quitting as a higher priority than did smokers using branded packs.

Australian Council on Smoking and Health president Mike Daube said the results were encouraging.

"The primary focus for plain packaging was always to reduce smoking among children, but it is a real bonus that it has clearly had an impact on smokers," he said.

"The onus is now on the State Government to implement further measures to reduce smoking and protect non-smokers from the harms of smoking."

Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said smokers had been reporting plain packaging and larger graphic health warnings were putting them off.

She said smokers had also been saying their cigarettes "tasted worse since the Government required packaging to be plain".

British American Tobacco Australia said consumers had not changed their buying behaviour since plain packs came in.