New evidence suggests that fewer people are taking up smoking thanks to the introduction of plain cigarette packaging.
It’s no secret that smoking tobacco damages your health and can lead to life-threatening illnesses such as cancer, heart problems and lung disease. According to figures published by the Australian government, as many as 15,000 Australians die each year from preventable smoking-related illnesses.
To help reduce these figures, the government introduced the ‘Tobacco Plain Packaging Act’ in 2011, which set out new regulations for how tobacco was packaged. The idea was that by making all tobacco packets look the same, and by removing specific, recognisable branding, it would make the packets much less appealing. This would then hopefully discourage people from taking up smoking and, potentially help to encourage those who already smoke to quit.
Tobacco companies were told to remove any logos or brand imagery, and were restricted in their use of colour, size and format. Health warnings were also made much more prominent.
A Cochrane review, published in April 2017, suggests that this strategy may well be working. The study, which included around 800,000 participants, looked at the effect that plain packaging had on general smoking levels and found that tobacco use had decreased as a result of the less appealing designs. Ongoing data collected from studies in Australia continue to support this finding and many other countries, such as France and the UK, have followed suit in introducing similar laws.
With tobacco advertising banned, unattractive packaging, and the fact that Australia is one of the most expensive places in the world to buy cigarettes, the hope is that fewer and fewer people will take up the habit and more people will quit, saving thousands of lives every year.