Plain cigarette packaging ‘puts women off smoking’

WOMEN get less satisfaction and enjoyment when smoking cigarettes that come in plain packaging, Scottish research suggests.
Women smokers were used in Stirling University research. Picture: APWomen smokers were used in Stirling University research. Picture: AP
Women smokers were used in Stirling University research. Picture: AP

A study by researchers at Stirling University involved 187 young female smokers who used plain brown packs.

The women said they were more embarrassed about smoking from plain packs and felt more negative about it, even though they were using their usual brand.

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They also reported smoking fewer cigarettes, stubbing out cigarettes early, smoking less around others and thinking more about quitting. The report comes after a Scottish Government strategy to combat smoking backed the use of plain packaging as a measure to help almost eradicate cigarettes.

But campaigners condemned the study as “sexist” for suggesting women were so easily influenced by plain packaging.

The Stirling researchers wanted to examine the extent to which young women smokers were influenced by the aesthetic appeal of packaging. Their findings echoed an earlier study using the same ­approach and anecdotal evidence in Australia, where standardised packs were introduced last ­December.

Dr Crawford Moodie, lead author of the study, said: “Young women are a key target group for both public health and tobacco companies given that smoking prevalence is very high among young women in the UK.

“Tobacco companies use slim, elegant packaging to target young women and have been successful in doing so. In contrast, public health initiatives have had limited impact.

“This is highlighted by the fact that smoking prevalence among 20 to 24-year-old women has only fallen by 4 per cent since the mid-1980s, from 35 per cent in 1984 to 31 per cent in 2009.”

Dr Moodie said the ­research showed the importance ­packaging has for young women. He added: “It offers an insight into how packaging could be used to help reduce the appeal of tobacco products rather than offering the tobacco industry a chance to market their product.”

A UK-wide public consultation on tobacco packaging ended in August last year. While the Scottish Government has backed plain packets, the UK administration has yet to make a decision.

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Health campaigners want ­colourful packaging to be replaced with packs of uniform size, shape and design, showing health warnings, to reduce the appeal of tobacco to children.

Sarah Woolnough, Cancer Research UK’s executive director of policy and information, said: “This research highlights just how powerful packaging can be.”

But Angela Harbutt, from smoking lobby group FOREST’s Hands Off Our Packs campaign, criticised the research. She said: “The idea that plain packaging will have a greater impact on young women is not only an outdated view of women, it’s also incredibly sexist.”

Paul Williams, from cigarette manufacturer JTI, said there was “a lack of credible evidence” plain packaging would discourage young people from ­smoking.