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Plain Packaging Snuffs Out Cigarette 'Cool' Factor for Teens

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A New Zealand study found removing enticing logos and colors from cigarette packages significantly reduced their appeal among teens, the Australian Associated Press reported Oct. 7.

The study was presented at the 2010 Asia Pacific Conference on Tobacco and Health and has been submitted for publication in a scholarly journal. University of Auckland researcher Lisa Webb showed 80 students aged 14 to 16 commercial cigarette packs and packs depicting only graphic warnings and the manufacturer’s name. The latter were developed as part of an Australian campaign that would require plain packaging on all cigarettes by July 2011.

Some of the students were smokers, and some were not. The participants reported that conventional packs made it “easier to pay attention to the positive rather than the negative” about smoking. Conversely, the majority of students reported that neither they nor their friends would be interested in smoking cigarettes from the plain packet, contradicting the tobacco industry’s assertion that packaging would have no effect on smoking rates.

“Quite a few of the young people identified that the behaviour won't look cool anymore,” said Webb. “[The students] knew that cigarette smoking, and the brands that you smoke, said something about you,” she said. “Getting rid of that got rid of the purpose of smoking.”

According to Ian Olver, chief executive for Cancer Council Australia, the tobacco industry is likely to challenge the Australian legislation in court since the packaging is used to attract new smokers.

“They have been doing it for quite some time,” said Olver. “And [the package restrictions] would take away their ability to do that…. There won't be any prestige to a pack.”

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