University of Otago, 14 March 2018
Standardised packaging a good move, but Otago researchers call
for more in fight against tobacco
Today marks the introduction of standardised packaging for
tobacco products sold in New Zealand.
Attractive brand imagery will be out, replaced by standardised
brand names, and large pictorial warnings, set against a
Co-Director of ASPIRE2025, Professor Janet Hoek, from the
University of Otago, says the plain packaging policy represents a
major step forward in protecting young people from smoking
initiation, but calls on the Government to ensure standardised
packs maintain their impact on smokers.
"On-pack warnings are very important because they allow us to
reach all smokers, but we must recognise that people who have
smoked for 30 years differ from young people who are experimenting
or who regard themselves as social smokers," she says.
Concerned by evidence from their earlier work which revealed
young people rationalise warnings about long-term harms caused by
smoking, Professor Hoek and her team developed and tested a range
of new warnings.
In two Health Research Council of New Zealand-funded studies,
recently published in Tobacco Control and
the Journal of Health Communication, the researchers examined
how young adults responded to different warning themes.
"We found that warnings illustrating the social risks of smoking
and the harm smoking inflicts on innocent third parties, such as
children and animals, as well as exposing the tobacco industry's
practices, elicited strong negative emotions and were significantly
less likely to be selected in choice tasks," Emeritus Professor
Phil Gendall, lead author of both studies, says.
Professors Hoek and Gendall argue it is time to apply basic
communications principles to on-pack warnings.
"No marketing manager would consider using a single
communications theme for more than a decade, yet this has been the
approach taken to date in New Zealand where the pictorial warnings
introduced in 2008 have been used for ten years," says Professor
The researchers call on the Government to undertake an on-going
programme of warning development and implementation.
On-pack warnings need to resonate with diverse groups of
smokers, and be refreshed regularly so smokers are exposed to
multiple reasons for quitting.
The Government also needs to run an "intensive, complementary,
mass media campaign" to channel dissonance caused by the new packs
into quit attempts, as well as develop a thoughtful evaluation plan
of the impact of plain packaging.
"We are only seven years from the Smokefree 2025 goal so we need
to make sure that the policies introduced achieve maximum impact
over a sustained period," Professor Hoek says.
Research papers cited: