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Key evidence on plain tobacco packaging published

A collection of peer-reviewed research papers and commentaries that bring together key parts of the evidence base for standardised packaging of tobacco products between 2008 and 2015 has been published in the journal Addiction.

Ann McNeill, Professor of Tobacco Addiction from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) wrote an introduction to the collection, which documents the growing evidence base on the likely effectiveness of standardised packaging in reducing smoking, and found that plain packaging may reduce smoking rates in current smokers, that variations in packaging shape, size and opening method could influence brand appeal and risk perceptions and thereby increase cigarette sales, and that removing brand imagery from cigarette packets seems to increase visual attention to health warnings in experimental adolescent smokers although not among daily adolescent smokers.

“Arguably, for an addictive product that kills so many of its users, the tobacco industry should consider itself fortunate that, purely through historical precedent, it is allowed to sell its toxic products at all, let alone try to make them attractive through the packaging,” said Professor McNeill. “However, it is evidence on the likely public health impact that is the primary basis for the policy on standardised packaging.”

The English government recently announced that it will be putting regulations on standardised packaging to a vote before the general election in May 2015. If the vote is passed, England will be the second country in the world to mandate standardised packaging, following Australia’s example, and there is a strong likelihood that the measure would also be introduced in the other jurisdictions of the United Kingdom. 

Professor Robert West, Editor-in-Chief of the journal Addiction, said: “Even if standardised packaging had no effect at all on current smokers and only stopped 1 in 20 young people from being lured into smoking it would save about 2,000 lives each year.”

For further information contact Tom Bragg, Press Officer at IoPPN, King’s College London, on +44(0)2078485377 or email