Study: Plain cigarette packs turn smokers off

Researchers in Australia find that smokes with no flashy branding or advertising lose their appeal. But tobacco companies say sales are still going strong.

By Kim Peterson Jul 23, 2013 2:01PM
handout image provided by the Australian Government, a proposed 'plain-packaged' cigarette packet is seen. British American Tobacco (BAT), Philip Morris, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International are in the High Court challenging the Australian Government's proposed plain packaging laws, which are a world first
© Australian Government via Getty ImagesPlain, drab cigarette packaging might go a long way toward helping smokers quit.

That's the takeaway from a new study in Australia that found that smokers don't like cigarettes as much when they come in boring packs with graphic images of the habit's harmful effects.

As it turns out, people are so influenced by branding and advertising that when you take it away, the product suffers.

Smokers think cigarettes from plain packs are less satisfying and of lower quality, the study said. And most also think seriously about quitting. The researchers are publishing the study Tuesday in the British Medical Journal.

The study took place in Australia because it has some of the world's toughest laws on cigarette packaging. Starting last December, cigarettes have been sold in olive green packs (pictured) with graphic photos on them showing mouth cancer and other ill effects from smoking.

But do plain packs actually hurt sales? Cigarette companies say there there has been no drop in sales in Australia since the new packaging hit shelves. ''The tobacco market has remained stable," British American Tobacco spokesman Scott McIntyre told The Sydney Morning Herald. "Consumers have not changed their purchasing behavior."

The issue seems to have been snuffed out in the United States. In 2011, a federal judge threw out the Food and Drug Administration's attempt to get similar packaging in place. The government appealed the ruling last year, but so far no dramatic changes to cigarette packaging appears likely. Even the FDA's website showing the proposed labels has been shut down.

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Jul 23, 2013 4:28PM
When they put warnings on junk food saying this stuff will make you a fat a$$ and give you just as many health problems as smoking, then at least we will have a level playing field.
Jul 23, 2013 3:58PM

So, "Smokers think cigarettes from plain packs are less satisfying and of lower quality," but "Consumers have not changed their purchasing behavior."

Can I get a million dollar government grant to conduct this study in the U.S.?

Jul 23, 2013 4:23PM

Doesn't sway me to change my mind either way. Yes - I am killing myself and less money the government (you the tax payer) will have to pay since I'll be dead not collecting social security & medicade. Besides you have all that tax money you generate to spend on education for schools that worry about how you feel not how actually smart you are!!!


I like my brand due to quality - no brand name.

Jul 23, 2013 4:28PM
Been smoke free for 10 weeks. Cleaning out a jacket I found an unopened pack of Marlboros with the 5 miles on the side. They have to be at least 7 years old and I'm gonna keep them shelved behind the bar for nostalgias sake.
Jul 23, 2013 4:14PM
Give them a colorful pack.  They pay enough of a Ludacris price to kill themselves. 
Jul 23, 2013 6:43PM
I am a reformed smoker. As I look around it seems to me that there are far more fat people out there than smokers and the threat to our health care system and the burden on those of us who have health insurance will bankrupt the system far faster than tobacco.
Jul 23, 2013 4:54PM
Jul 23, 2013 3:36PM
It's called an addiction, it far exceeds the ugly graphic hurtful-harmful yeah, sales would be the same. Someday, those picture packs will be a collector's dream of ownin$$$.
Jul 23, 2013 5:16PM
"Plain pack turn off smokers" is like stating "round liquor/beer bottles bore alcoholics!"  We don't do like for the packaging, but for that which is in the package. burp.
Jul 23, 2013 5:18PM
Plain cigarette packs bore you?  How about terminal lung cancer. Perhaps that won't be so boring. All that neat Chemo treatment. Choking to death. Coughing your head off. Lots of pain and anguish while your dying. Gives boring a whole new perspective......huh?
Jul 23, 2013 5:51PM

If you think that lying will make me stop smoking, think again. People have smoked for hundreds of years and they were happy. Lies and more lies, coming from the health insurance companies that do not want anybody to get sick so they can make more money.


The Government is the cause of us older people smoking. They subsidized tobacco farmers to grow tobacco when I was young - I'm 70. They should be liable - not necessarily the tobacco companies.


On to the article: They cannot stop people with the habit from smoking - as the study suggests.

If they raise the price we still buy them. If they go too high we will have to start robbing to get the money to buy them and smokers will do that - it's a habit the governments created.

Jul 23, 2013 5:48PM
How about photos on packs of children's faces attending funerals of their parents or grandparents who were killed by tobacco.
Jul 23, 2013 4:21PM
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