December 29, 2011

Children and young people hoodwinked by cigarette packaging

Children and young people are being hoodwinked by glitzy cigarette packaging with more than a quarter of young smokers making health assumptions based on branding.

Watch our video
Just over 25 per cent of 16-25 year-old regular smokers surveyed for us believed one branded cigarette pack was less harmful than another based on the packet design alone. Yet the reality is that all cigarettes contain harmful toxins, tar, and carbon monoxide.

This is one of the findings of our report published today ahead of a Government consultation on whether the UK should adopt ‘plain packaging’ for tobacco products - see our picture below.

Report findings

The report, which includes survey responses from more than 2,700 16-25 year-old smokers and non-smokers, reveals three quarters think selling cigarettes in ‘plain packs’ - with no colourful branding or logos, and larger health warnings - would make it easier for people to smoke less or quit.

One in six (16%) said they’d consider the pack design when deciding which cigarettes to buy while one in eight (12%) said they’d choose a brand because it was considered ‘cool’.

The overwhelming majority (87%) thought plain packs were less attractive than branded packs, and shows how plain packaging could make a significant difference in deterring young smokers.


UK plain pack mock-up_articleOur Director of Policy and Communications, Betty McBride, said: “As informed adults we know that smoking is a deadly addiction that kills half of all smokers. But young people are not always fully aware of the risks, and the power of branding holds more sway.

“Tobacco advertising is rightly banned in the UK. Yet current glitzy packaging clearly still advertises tobacco on the cigarette box. It’s an absurd loophole the tobacco industry takes full advantage of to lure in new young smokers. We must close if we really want to protect younger generations from taking up this fatal habit.”

A total of 69 per cent of young people surveyed agreed that cigarette packaging was a form of advertising.

Around 200,000 children and young people in England start smoking each year, and more than two thirds of the UK’s existing 10 million smokers started before they turned 18.

What's next?

The Government is due to launch a public consultation by spring 2012 on whether the UK should adopt plain packaging for tobacco products.

Glitzy packaging clearly still advertises tobacco on the cigarette box

We are sending copies of our report to all MPs inside Australian-style plain cigarette packets in the New Year along with a link to the short vodcast, which shows young people’s reactions to different types of packaging.

In November the Australian government agreed cigarettes need to be sold in standardised plain packs of the same colour without any logos or branding imagery. They will also include large picture health warnings on the front and back of pack and will be mandatory from December 2012.

We are asking the UK Government to introduce a tobacco plain packaging bill into Parliament, and for ministers to seek amendments to the EU Tobacco Products Directive, which would enable large front-of-pack picture health warnings.

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