Evidence mounting on plain tobacco packs

North East-based small retailer John McClurey.
North East-based small retailer John McClurey.

With less than a month to go before all tobacco is sold in plain standardised packs, new North-East data has revealed the impact on smokers.

Standard packaging legislation came into force in the UK in May 2016 with retailers being given a year to sell through old stock.

From May 21 onwards, all packs sold in the UK must meet standardised requirements, including removal of most branding features apart from the name in a standard font and an increase in the size of graphic health warnings –now required to be on the front as well as on the back.

Packs have been appearing in the shops since last summer and now very few non-standardised packs are still available for sale.

A major survey in the North East has found that they are having an impact on smokers.

Among 1,550 smokers who had seen the packs:

60 per cent thought they looked less attractive;

51 per cent noticed the health warnings more;

29 per cent prompted thoughts about quitting;

29 per cent made them wish they didn’t smoke;

26 per cent were less likely to look forward to their next cigarette;

23 per cent were less likely to take their pack out in front of friends and family.

These early findings are in keeping with what was seen in Australia following introduction of standard packs.

A Cochrane review has been published examining the impact of standardising tobacco packaging on smoking rates.

Due to Cochrane’s status, it is significant that this review finds that implementing the policy is likely to lead to reductions in smoking rates.

Standardised packaging is intended to reduce the appeal of cigarettes, discouraging young people from starting and supporting smokers who want to quit.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, said: “Standard packs are a landmark public-health policy the tobacco industry fought tooth and nail to prevent.”