In December 2012 Australia became the first country in the world to introduce plain packaging of cigarettes. The policy was a legislative coup, coming after a long and intensive battle with the tobacco industry, which fought hard to maintain their marketing strategy of branding cigarettes.
The aim of the plain packaging policy introduced by the Australian government was to discourage uptake of smoking by reducing the appeal of the product, increasing the effectiveness of the graphic health warning labels and reducing wrong perceptions about the harms of smoking.
At the University of Newcastle we have conducted studies of the impact of the plain cigarette packs on smokers’ ratings of appeal and perceptions of the product. We have found that plain packs are rated by long-term smokers as less appealing and attractive. The participants of our research also said that they had noticed deterioration in the quality of tobacco. They also reported that they now struggled to tell the difference between the tastes of different cigarette brands now that packs all looked the same.
This finding is important for a number of reasons. It indicates the power of product branding. Over a period of time when only the packaging had been altered, smokers questioned the content and quality of their cigarettes.