Plain packaging of tobacco products can cut smoking: experts

Smoking

Plain packaging of tobacco products would cut smoking, a new Cambridge study has claimed.

Tobacco control experts from around the world estimate that two years after the introduction of generic packaging the number of adult smokers would be reduced by one percentage point in the UK - from 21 to 20 per cent.

The percentage of children trying smoking would be reduced by three percentage points in the UK - from 27 to 24 per cent, experts believe.

For the study, 33 tobacco control experts from the UK (14), Australasia (12) and North America (7) were recruited. Professionals in these regions were targeted because these countries are currently considering (or have recently implemented) plain packaging for tobacco products.

They were then interviewed about how plain packaging - packaging without brand imagery or promotional text and using standardised formatting - might impact the rates of smoking in adults and children.

The experts estimated that plain packaging would reduce the number of adult smokers by one percentage point (on average) two years after the introduction of plain packaging.

"Currently, approximately 10 million adults in Britain smoke. A one percentage point decline - from 21 per cent of the population to 20 per cent - would equate to 500,000 people who will not suffer the health effects of smoking," Professor Theresa Marteau, who led the study, said.

Moreover, researchers believe that generic packaging would reduce the percentage of children trying smoking by three percentage points (on average) two years after plain packaging is introduced.

"Given that the majority of smokers first try smoking in adolescence, the impact on children is of particular importance. Nicotine dependence develops rapidly after lighting up for the first time, even before the user is smoking once a week," Dr Rachel Pechey, first author of the study said.

The tobacco control experts indicated that plain packaging would reduce the numbers of children trying smoking because they expect younger people to be more affected by less appealing packs, less brand identification, and changes in social norms around smoking.

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