Plain Cigarette Packs Drastically Cut Smoking Rates

By Bryan Le 08/07/14

Plain packaging reduced smoking in Australia and may soon do the same in the UK.


Don't judge a book by its cover, the old adage goes, but smokers don't seem to have taken the advice to heart—when cigarettes are sold in plain packaging, the smoking rate falls. Australia implemented plain packaging in December 2012 and subsequently saw the fastest decline in smoking rates for over 20 years, according to Public Health England (PHE), stating its effectiveness as "irrefutable."

Without all the designed packaging and colors that normally come on cigarette boxes, life-saving health warnings stand out better.

"The evidence is clear that standardized packaging increases the effectiveness of health warnings and reduces the appeal of cigarette packaging to young people and adults. It removes a powerful marketing tool and the ability to influence perceptions about the relative risk between cigarette brands," the PHE stated. "Standardized packaging influences behavior, encouraging smokers to reduce their smoking and to quit."

The UK Department of Health undertook a consultation of Australia's plain packaging efficacy in order to determine whether the United Kingdom should invest in plain packaging for cigarettes. Health experts have clamored for such a measure for a long time, while smoking groups say that without proper branding, nefarious profiteers could easily sell knockoffs as the real deal. But after Australia's big success in cutting smoking, plain-jane packaging proponents in the UK have a win on the horizon.

Other nations have taken similar measures, some going as far as printing gruesome images of smokers' diseased feet, teeth, and lungs on the packs.

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter