Research undermines tobacco industry's claims that 'plain packaging' is unfair

(Medical Xpress)—Two research studies led by University of Otago researchers have challenged tobacco companies' claims about plain packaging.

The first study involved a survey of 418 and 418 non-smokers in New Zealand and was carried out in March 2012. The study has been published in the .

Professor Hoek says the survey found strong support for plain packaging.

"Overall, more than two-thirds of respondents supported plain packaging. It's important to note that we undertook the survey before the current debate over plain packaging, so this estimate shows very high instinctive support for a policy that people had heard little about at the time," she says.

Professor Hoek notes that when introducing smoke-free bars and restaurants was passed in 2003, surveys showed support levels of around 35%. Since then, however, support has grown significantly. Now well over 80% of New Zealanders support smokefree bars and .

"Support for many increases once they have been implemented and people experience their benefits. Support for plain packaging is already very high, but we would expect it to increase even further as the issues are debated and after plain packs are introduced."

Professor Gendall says that although tobacco companies argue that packaging simply encourages brand switching, the survey found only 29% of smokers agreed that was the case, while 44% disagreed.

"These findings tell us smokers don't buy the argument that packaging encourages them to switch brands. That's because smokers know that they are extremely brand loyal and attached to their preferred brand, and very unlikely to switch to other brands," he says.

Professor Edwards says the survey also shows very low support for the 's argument that plain packaging is unfair because it would prevent them from using their brands and logos.

"Including both smokers and non-smokers, only 20% of agreed that plain packaging would be unfair, and nearly three times as many disagreed with this proposition. The public have clearly seen through ' claims and have little sympathy for their arguments."

The second study, published recently in BMC Public Health, found tobacco packaging communicated very powerful brand identities to young adult smokers and non-smokers. Smokers and non-smokers alike were able to identify clear brand personalities for both familiar and unfamiliar cigarette brands.

Professor Hoek says these findings show that packaging performs the same functions as advertising.

"It communicates positive and aspirational attributes about cigarette brands and we know from other work we've conducted that young people find these attributes very attractive."

The study also included an American brand called Basic, with little in the way of brand imagery, unlike typical New Zealand tobacco brands, which feature extensive branding. Both smokers and non-smokers saw Basic as only 'budget' and 'plain'.

"Removing brand imagery eliminates positive personalities that attract young people to smoking. Because plain packaging is not simply plain but unattractive, we expect these negative attribute associations to increase and smoking to become even less attractive with plain packaging," says Professor Gendall.

Professor Hoek also points out that New Zealand has signed up to the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which requires the removal of all tobacco marketing, promotion and sponsorship.

"Findings from these studies show that current cigarette packaging acts as advertising and tell us that New Zealand must implement plain packaging if it is to eliminate marketing and meet its FCTC obligations.

"The studies also show exceptional public support for this measure. Plain packaging would be both a logical and popular next step towards achieving a smokefree New Zealand by 2025," she says.

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Tangent2
1 / 5 (1) Oct 10, 2012
"Removing brand imagery eliminates positive brand personalities that attract young people to smoking."


I can definitely say that it is not the brand imagery that attracts the young to smoke or even start smoking, that is just ridiculous. Most often, the young start smoking through either curiosity or peer pressure. I have never heard of a kid start smoking because they liked the flashy colors or logo of the pack. I am a smoker and I sympathize with the tobacco companies on this one. The government forces them out of any form of advertising, so they only have their packs to rely on. Now, not even that, since the special interest groups screamed loud enough to get the tobacco companies to lose 75% of their pack to the special interest agenda. I could see even 50% of the pack being used as perhaps fair, but 75% is just above and beyond.
Tangent2
2 / 5 (2) Oct 10, 2012
And what is worse, they slap on disgustingly graphic images (if these were shown on TV, there would have to be a viewer discretion advised and you had a choice as to see it or not) which only serve to make me almost hesitant to buy a pack let alone pull out the pack after a meal for fear of the nausea that it causes me. I guess the government figures that if the people are smokers, they must be used to disgusting and graphic images, which makes no sense. And finally there is the point about the government using the product's packaging as an anti smoking campaign against that very product. The public would scream if the government tried to do this on any other product. Consider a game console for sale with a bunch of anti gaming stickers all over it. Would that really impact your decision to purchase it, or would it only serve to offend?

So much for the freedom of speech and the general censorship of graphic material for the general public.
TheKnowItAll
1 / 5 (1) Oct 14, 2012
Well put Tengent2. I think that the high prices of cigarettes and the display of disgusting imagery on the covers are abusive in nature and shouldn't be tolerated. Sure smoking is not a good thing but cruel images and overtaxes are just other forms of abuse. Two wrongs don't make a right. The best way to fight any addiction is with education and by offering affordable ways out of it. Invest in research and offer cheaper alternatives to fight the cravings instead of wasting that money on abusive displays. And pass a law that prevents kids from smoking. Oh wait that law is already in place! Also where will the government take those billions of dollars they take from the smokers if they all stop? Don't say they will save it in health care because from experience I've seen so much more people in need of health care because of their obesity, or alcohol related incidents, and those people going to the hospital because they have a cold when it is known that nothing can be done.
TheKnowItAll
1 / 5 (1) Oct 14, 2012
Also what's up with cigarettes being so bad when alcohol is so accepted when we know how much destruction it causes. I've never seen someone hurt another one, abuse someone or break something because they had too much to smoke but I sure seen a lot happening with alcohol. You don't ask "was he/she drunk?" when something happens, you ask "how drunk he/she was?"
JGHunter
not rated yet Oct 15, 2012
Also what's up with cigarettes being so bad when alcohol is so accepted when we know how much destruction it causes. I've never seen someone hurt another one, abuse someone or break something because they had too much to smoke but I sure seen a lot happening with alcohol. You don't ask "was he/she drunk?" when something happens, you ask "how drunk he/she was?"


Because your body can metabolise alcohol and thus, when the alcohol is gone, any damage that occurred can be repaired. Tobacco smoke tar on the other hand inflicts permanent clogging in the lungs and inhibits repair (http://www.ncbi.n...17065377 )
Tangent2
1 / 5 (1) Oct 15, 2012
Because your body can metabolise alcohol and thus, when the alcohol is gone, any damage that occurred can be repaired. Tobacco smoke tar on the other hand inflicts permanent clogging in the lungs and inhibits repair (http://www.ncbi.n...17065377 )

Careful, inhibit is not the same as cease altogether.
Actually, the same can be said of cigarettes. If you quit for a few years, your body will start cleaning itself up, including the lungs. I think the last information I saw on this said that after around 15 years of stop smoking, your body will clean itself up to such a degree that it will appear to a doctor that the individual had never smoked in their life (when checking the lungs and heart). Of course, it is the same as alcohol, and it only works if you stop doing it. For alcohol, this effect is much more noticeable since most people don't keep drinking continuously for extended periods of time unless they are in college.

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