Compared with those continuing to smoke from branded packages, respondents smoking from the plain-brown packaging rated their cigarettes, as well as their satisfaction in smoking those cigarettes, less highly than they believed they would have a year earlier. That shift became less pronounced as more and more smokers shifted to the new plain-brown packaging, but smokers’ loss of satisfaction with their cigarettes continued to the end of the survey.
Asked about their thoughts on quitting smoking, the plain-pack smokers reported they had thought about quitting more in the past week than had those smoking from branded packs. They also rated quitting a higher priority than did those still clutching their cigarettes in colorful packages.
That’s important because past research suggests that the more an individual thinks about quitting, the more likely he or she is to make an attempt to quit.
Great Britain was readying a plain-packaging requirement for cigarettes. But earlier this month, officials said they wanted to wait to implement the initiative to see how it worked in Australia.
Australia’s plain-packaging plan came not only with an increase in the size of graphic warnings but with a broad public-messaging campaign about tobacco’s harms. Because the three changes took place at the same time, the authors of the study acknowledged it was not possible to attribute all of smokers’ attitudinal changes to the plain-packaging initiative.
But there are strong signals that flashy brand markings have a “halo effect” on the sensory experience of smoking, and that removing those colorful brand trappings will dampen that effect. Compared with Australians still buying branded packages of cigarettes, smokers buying their cigarettes in plain wrapping did not think more frequently about the harms of smoking, and were no more (or less) likely to believe the harms of smoking had been exaggerated.