UK cigarette health warnings ‘not up to the job’

7 October 2013        

Category: Research

Standardised cigarette pack

More Australian teens are put off smoking by cigarette packs than their UK counterparts, a new study has shown.

Only a third (36%) of UK teenagers are deterred from smoking by current cigarette packs, compared to half (48%) of teenagers in Australia, where packs are almost entirely covered by graphic warnings, according to our unique cross-hemisphere survey.

The poll of 2,500 13- to 18-year-olds in the UK and Australia, the first country in the world to adopt standardised cigarette packs last year, revealed nearly 8 in 10 (77%) British teenagers think the UK should introduce standardised cigarette packs.

Our survey also paints a picture of support for standardised packs from Australia’s youth with nearly 6 in 10 (59%) saying the packs make people their age less likely to smoke. Two thirds (66%) of Australian teens think the packs should be introduced elsewhere in the world. 

Smoking kills 100,000 people in the UK every year and we simply can’t wait any longer for legislation.

Worryingly, 10 per cent of teenagers in the UK make the incorrect assumption that certain cigarette brands are healthier than others – twice as many as Australian teens (5%).

Our Chief Executive, Simon Gillespie, said: “The message from our young people is loud and clear: current health warnings aren’t up to the job and the UK Government must step up to the mark and introduce standardised packs.

Smoking kills 100,000 people in the UK every year and we simply can’t wait any longer for legislation. Australia has led the way on standardised packs, the Scottish Government has committed, and now the rest of the UK must act to protect future generations from a deadly habit.”

Peer pressure

Later this month, the House of Lords will be debating a cross-party amendment to the Children and Families Bill, which could see standardised packaging become a reality in the UK. Under the reform, cigarette packs will be a generic size which, research shows, makes warnings about the harmful effects of cigarettes stand out more.

Mr Gillespie added: “The evidence shows that standardised packs increase the effectiveness of health warnings and lessen the appeal of cigarettes, particularly among young people, so it’s imperative MEPs vote for larger health warnings and then peers agree to amend the Children and Families Bill.”