Plain packaging success among teens

A large survey has found a positive response among adolescents and young adults after implementation of plain packaging laws

In December 2012, Australia introduced world-first legislation mandating plain packaging for all cigarette packs.

At the same time plain packaging was introduced, on-pack coloured graphic health warnings were updated and enlarged so that they covered 90% of the back and 75% of the front.


To follow up on the impact this legislation has had on young people, researchers from the Cancer Institute New South Wales conducted a large-scale telephone survey of 8820 adolescents and young adults aged 12 to 24.

These surveys were conducted in NSW and Queensland before the legislation was implemented, as well as afterwards, with quite positive results.

Researchers found significant increases in support for plain packaging after the legislation compared with before, for never smokers, experimenters/ex-smokers, and current smokers.

After plain packaging implementation, 18% of never smokers reported that it made them less likely to try smoking. Meanwhile, 16% of experimenters/ex-smokers reported it made them less likely to smoke again.

“Given that the vast majority of Australians aged 12-17 years are never smokers, the positive impact of plain packaging on future smoking for18% of those adolescents translates into a considerable population-level effect, consistent with the original aims of the legislation in deterring young people from taking up smoking,” say the authors.

In addition, 34% of smokers reported a quitting-related response to plain packaging, such as trying to or thinking about quitting.

Smokers reported that, as a result of plain packaging, they had: thought about quitting (32%), hidden their pack from view (19%), smoked less (18%), tried to quit (17%), felt embarrassed to be a smoker (12%), used a case (11%), and changed brands (11%).

“This study adds to the evidence by demonstrating a considerable positive response to plain packaging among Australian adolescents and young adults, including quitting-related behaviours and thoughts, behavioural and emotional indicators of social denormalisation and high levels of support of the policy,” say the authors.

“Countries considering introducing plain packaging legislation should be encouraged by these findings,” they conclude.

Tobacco Control 2016, online 15 November 2016

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