Health warnings have bigger impact on smokers when tobacco products stripped of advertising

7 January 2015        

Standard packaging Smokers are almost twice as likely to take notice of health warnings on tobacco products when their packaging is stripped of advertising, according to a new report by the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

The BHF’s Standardised Packaging for Tobacco Products report reviewed data from almost 3,000 smokers and ex-smokers to test how effective standardised packaging is as a tobacco control strategy. 

The research showed that after tobacco packets were stripped of branding in Australia in December 2012, the number of people taking notice of the warning labels almost doubled. 

Just a third (34%) of smokers and ex-smokers noticed the health warnings first in 2010 compared to two thirds (66%) after the legislation was implemented. In the UK, where branded packaging still exists, only 24% of people noticed the health warnings before other aspects such as advertising.

Tobacco products were also found to be significantly less appealing, with more than four in five (82%) Australians saying they did not like the look of tobacco products.

Support for the new legislation in Australia among smokers and ex-smokers has also almost doubled, rising from 28% in 2010 to 51% in 2013. More than a third (37%) of smokers and ex-smokers in the UK back standardised packaging being enforced here. 

Making standardised packaging law

The BHF is urging the UK Government to take immediate action to ensure standardised packaging is introduced before the general election. 

Smoking rates in Australia plummeted to a record new low between 2010 and 2013. Now just 12.8% of people aged over 14 are daily smokers. Meanwhile in the UK, 19% of adults aged 18 or over smoke.

The evidence couldn’t be clearer. Stripping tobacco products of their branded packaging means important health warnings have more impact.

Simon Gillespie
Chief Executive

Simon Gillespie, Chief Executive of the British Heart Foundation, said: “The evidence couldn’t be clearer. Stripping tobacco products of their branded packaging means important health warnings have more impact. These are toxic products so it’s vital these messages are communicated clearly.


“Standardised packaging is an effective and important public health measure which is already having a significant impact in Australia.  

“There can be no more delay and the UK Government must act now to make sure standardised packaging is law before the election.”

Read our Standardised Packaging for Tobacco Products report.