On Friday, 20th May 2016, the laws around tobacco packaging will change. Under new regulations voted for by MPs, tobacco and cigarettes can only be sold in plain, standardised packaging.
The decision to make these changes as a public health measure to protect children’s health was informed by the work of the University of Stirling’s Institute for Social Marketing (ISM).
A systematic review of evidence of standardised packaging carried out by the Institute showed that standard packs are less appealing, make health warnings more effective, and reduce the ability of the packaging to mislead consumers about the harms of smoking.
Under the new regulations, all tobacco products will be sold in dark green packages, with brand features and bright colours replaced with large graphic images of the effects of smoking and health warnings.
Commenting on the new regulations and their implications, experts from the ISM made the following observations:
Gerard Hastings, Professor of Social Marketing said: "The introduction of plain packaging is another giant step forward in the fight against tobacco, which is still killing tens of thousands of people every year in Britain.
“Over the last two decades we have blocked the tobacco industry’s pernicious marketing in the media, in our shops and now on the pack itself. The big winners will be our children, who will escape being groomed for addiction and early death in the interests of private profit. Today is a day which every parent, every teacher and every child can cheer to the roof tops.”
Martine Stead, Deputy Director of the Institute for Social Marketing said: “We have examined evidence of the potential impact of standardised packaging from Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Canada and France. The evidence is clear: putting cigarettes into plain packs makes tobacco products, and smoking in general, less appealing to young people.
“People pay more attention to health warnings when packs have no distracting branding on them. The colour is also important as people assume white packs are somehow less harmful than darker coloured packs. This confusion disappears when all packs are the same dark colour.”
Crawford Moodie, Senior Research Fellow, said: “Australia remains the only country to have fully implemented plain packaging. Large national surveys with both adults and youth there show since the regulation was introduced, prevalence and consumption has declined, with fewer adults and young people smoking now than at any time since these surveys began.
“There’s also been an increase in the average age of smoking initiation and the proportion of never smoking. The evidence in favour of plain packaging is now stronger than it has ever been.”
On the same day, changes to the current rules around tobacco related products including e-cigarettes will come into effect. This includes restrictions around advertising and promotion of e-cigarettes and how products containing different levels of nicotine are regulated.
Commenting on the developments to e-cigarette regulations, Linda Bauld, Professor of Health Policy, said: “Electronic cigarettes are now used by 2.8 million adults in the UK, with almost half of these users being ex-smokers. All existing research suggests that while e-cigarettes shouldn’t be promoted to children who have never smoked, they offer a far safer alternative for people who currently use tobacco.
“New EU regulations on e-cigarettes are contained in one specific part of the TPD - Article 20 - which imposes new restrictions on these devices. TPD limits on nicotine concentration, tank size and e-liquid containers are not well supported by existing evidence. Only time will tell if Article 20 has unintended consequences, and this needs to be the focus of future careful research and monitoring.”
Gerard Hastings is an Emeritus Professor of Social Marketing at the University of Stirling and founder of the Institute for Social Marketing and Centre for Tobacco Control Research. He was lead investigator on the ISM’s plain tobacco packaging review.
Martine Stead is Deputy Director of the Institute for Social Marketing and a specialist in the effects of commercial marketing exposure on the health of children and adults.
Dr Crawford Moodie is Senior Research Fellow at the University of Stirling’s Centre for Tobacco Control Research and Institute for Social Marketing. He has lead the Centre and Institute's tobacco packaging work, and has authored or co-authored more than 40 related publications.
Linda Bauld is Professor of Health Policy, Director of the Institute for Social Marketing and Dean of Research (Impact) at the University of Stirling. She is also Deputy Director of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies and Cancer Research UK’s cancer prevention champion. As well as being an author of ISM’s review of standardised packaging, she also chaired the NICE programme development group on tobacco harm reduction and is an author of the Royal College of Physician’s recent report on electronic cigarettes.
For more information on the tobacco and e-cigarette legislation changes visit www.ash.org.uk.
Institute of Social Marketing
The University of Stirling won the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in 2013 for its ground-breaking social marketing research.
Awarded biennially to universities and colleges in the further and higher education sectors within the United Kingdom the University received the Queens’s Anniversary Prize in recognition of its world leading research showing that children’s health must be protected from commercial marketing of alcohol, tobacco and junk food.
The Queens’s Anniversary prize is the UK’s highest form of national recognition open to academic and vocational institutions