A Cancer Research UK study reveals for the first time that glitzy and glamorous cigarette packaging makes children susceptible to smoking — tempting them in to a habit that kills. The research is published in the journal BMJ Open.
The results are further proof that the UK government’s decision not to protect children from the tobacco industry’s marketing practices risks harming the UK’s public health legacy. The government claims it wishes to wait and see the impact of similar moves in Australia – where the weight of evidence led to the introduction of standardized packaging last year.
During this delay the tobacco industry is reaping the benefits of slickly designed packs that help to recruit new smokers. Nearly 570 children under-16 start smoking in the UK every day.
In the new study, researchers at the University of Stirling examined the reactions of 1,025 UK children aged 11-16 who had never tried smoking. They were given three different types of cigarette packs: regular, novelty and standardized packs. Novelty packs were those with an unusual shape, color or system of opening, and included a slim “perfume” type pack and a pack in the shape of a giant lighter. Standardized packs were brown packs of a uniform shape with all branding removed apart from a brand name.
Children preferred the colorful and novelty packs – such as Silk Cut Superslim’s elegant and feminine slim pack shape, Marlborough Bright Leaf’s Zippo style flip-top opening and Pall Mall’s bright pink pack.
Alarmingly children who liked these packs were the same children who said they were more tempted to smoke – for example those receptive to the Silk Cut pack were over four times more likely to be susceptible to smoking than those who were not receptive to this pack.
In contrast plain, standardized packaging reduced the appeal of smoking to the children.