Cancer Research UK has conducted a study which aims to measure the success of adding further health warnings to cigarettes.

It was back in 2002, when manufacturers were made to comply with UK regulations which required them to introduce health warnings on tobacco packaging which covers 30% of the front of the pack and 40% of the back. This ruling became stricter in 2009 when manufacturers where then required to add pictorial warnings to the packs and since May 2017, it has been law in the UK that cigarette packaging must be standardised as a dull green colour.

Cancer Research UK is now suggesting that further messaging would dissuade young people from smoking. Moving away from packaging, this survey proposed changing the appearance of the cigarette itself and tested the perception two redesigned cigarettes.

One cigarette in the trial had the words “Smoking Kills” printed along the side of the cigarette and the other was a fully green cigarette (filter and paper). The survey used these two cigarettes and a normal cigarette and asked 1000 participants made up of 16-24 year old smokers and non-smokers to rate them on their desirability.

Photo courtesy of Cancer Research UK

The results state: “For smokers and non-smokers, the two dissuasive cigarettes (cigarette with warning, green cigarette) were rated significantly less favourably than the standard cigarette, and less likely to encourage trial. The study concludes by suggesting “that dissuasive cigarettes may help to reduce the desirability of cigarettes”.

The fight against tobacco has gathered a lot of momentum in recent years with smoking rates in England falling from 26% to less than 16% within the last 15 years. The primary reasoning for this decline is often debated, with the effect of tax hikes, advertising restrictions and packaging regulations proving difficult to accurately measure.

What we do know is that the correlation between the rise of e-cigarettes and the decline of smoking prevalence is very strong and that over half of vapers in the UK have now given up smoking. Should these anti-smoking campaigners be putting more effort into the endorsement of e-cigarettes rather than imposing further deterrents?

Simon Clark, Director of Forest, a Tobacco support group has been very vocal in his opposition to packaging restrictions and he has spoken out about this latest study as he stated:

“We were told graphic health warnings and plain packaging would make cigarettes less desirable but there’s no evidence that either policy actually works. Printing a warning on the cigarette or changing the colour of the stick will achieve nothing other than highlight the failure of existing policies.”

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