Plain cigarette packs ‘stop children smoking’

SCOTTISH teenagers would be less likely to start smoking if plain packaging was introduced for cigarettes, new research suggests.

Australian teens say their decision to smoke or not is influenced by packaging. Picture: Getty
Australian teens say their decision to smoke or not is influenced by packaging. Picture: Getty

A survey found that less than a third (31 per cent) of teenagers in Scotland said they were deterred from smoking by current cigarette packs, which include health warnings alongside the manufacturers’ own branding.

But among teenagers in Australia, where tobacco packaging is entirely covered with graphic warnings, almost half (48 per cent) said the packs put them off smoking,

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

The British Heart Foundation, which carried out the cross-hemisphere survey, said the findings demonstrated that standardised, plain packaging would persuade young people not to smoke.

But smokers’ lobby group Forest said there was still no evidence that moves to introduce plain packaging would actually cut the number of children who start to smoke.

In July, the Westminster government announced it was shelving its proposal to introduce plain packaging in England until the measures in Australia were properly evaluated.

But the Scottish Government signalled that it would push forward with plans to introduce plain packaging as part of its strategy to create a smoke-free country in just 20 years.

The latest research questioned 664 teenagers aged 13 to 18 in Scotland and Australia, which was the first country in the world to adopt standardised cigarette packs last year.

The poll found that nearly eight out of ten (78 per cent) of Scottish teenagers thought standardised cigarette packs should be introduced.

The results also revealed support for standardised packs from Australia’s youth with nearly six out of ten (59 per cent) saying the packs made people their age less likely to smoke.

Two-thirds (66 per cent) of Australian teenagers thought the packs should be introduced elsewhere in the world.

Worryingly, 10 per cent of teenagers in Scotland made the incorrect assumption that certain cigarette brands are healthier than others.

Simon Gillespie, chief executive at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Smoking kills 13,473 people in Scotland every year, and the message from our young people is current health warnings aren’t up to the job.

“Standardised packs increase the effectiveness of health warnings and would lessen the appeal of cigarettes, particularly among young people.”

Scotland’s public health minister, Michael Matheson, said: “It is imperative we protect the health of our young people.

“We know that standardised packaging is effective in preventing young people from taking up smoking, and this research shows why the Scottish Government is right to lead the way.”

Simon Clark, of Forest, which runs the Hands Off Our Packs campaign, said: “Teenagers don’t smoke because of packaging. The primary factors are peer pressure and family members.”