Plain packaging of tobacco products has helped significantly in Australia

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Researchers have established through fourteen peer-reviewed papers that introduction of world’s first tobacco laws in Australia have actually delivered on its aim and has had an impact beyond expectation by encouraging thinking about quitting and quit attempts.

The fourteen separate papers on the impact of plain packaging on the community, including young people and adult smokers in its first year were published in a special supplement to the British Medical Journal on March 19.

According to Cancer Council Victoria’s professor Melanie Wakefield, who led the team that evaluated the fourteen papers, the evaluation shows that plain packaging has reduced positive perceptions of cigarette packs among teenagers and reveals that smokers were noticing and paying more attention to the graphic health warnings.

Wakefield said that before plain packaging laws were introduced, about 20 per cent of people made attempts to quit over the course of a month. But after plain packaging that number has went up to nearly 27 per cent.

She said that the enlarged warnings also had an major impact on smokers. Her team found that smokers 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 put young people off, with the appeal of cigarette packs and brands decreasing significantly.

“These papers provide the first comprehensive set of results of real world plain packaging and they are pointing very strongly to success in achieving the legislation’s aims”, added Wakefield.

The Key findings of the evaluation include:

  • Plain packaging has delivered on its aim to reduce appeal of packs, particularly with adolescents and young adults;
  • There was no evidence of an increase in the consumption of illicit “cheap white” cigarettes;
  • The impact of plain packaging extends beyond expectation with studies suggesting the initiative encourages thinking about quitting and quit attempts.