Study explores effect of plain cigarette packs

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"Long-term smokers find the taste of plain-packaged cigarettes worse than that of branded cigarettes," The Guardian reports.

The news comes from Australian research into the impact of plain packaging and health risk warnings on packets of cigarettes and anti-smoking TV adverts.

The researchers found highly emotive warnings were more likely to capture the attention of the study's participants. However, these warning messages did not actually prompt the smokers to try to quit.

Interestingly, some smokers reported they felt the quality and taste of cigarettes had worsened or different brands now all tasted the same after plain packs were introduced.

While this may well be a minority view, it does suggest the effects of branding could have a psychological influence on some smokers, changing how they perceive the quality of the product.

This may explain why tobacco companies have been lobbying against similar laws being introduced in the UK.

Further research is needed to determine the best ways of engaging with vulnerable smokers.

Australia introduced plain packaging laws for cigarettes in 2012.

The packs themselves are not plain  all branding and logos has been removed from the packs and replaced with graphic anti-smoking images, such as pictures of the devastating effect oral cancer can have on the mouth and teeth.

The only brand-specific information is the name of the brand under the image.

The study was carried out by researchers from the University of Newcastle and the Hunter Medical Research Institute in Newcastle, Australia.

It was funded by an Australian Postgraduate Award PhD Scholarship, the Cancer Institute New South Wales, and Newcastle Cancer Control Collaboration.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Health Education Research.

The Guardian's headline, "Long-term smokers find plain-packaged cigarettes taste worse", gives a false impression of the findings of this study. The researchers did not compare the taste of branded and plain-packaged cigarettes.

Following the implementation of plain packaging, perceptions of the quality and taste of cigarettes did change for some participants.

However, it is unclear from the research article whether this was a majority view, and the research itself was not designed to address the question of whether plain-packaged cigarettes taste different.