Impact of Australia's introduction of tobacco plain packs on adult smokers' pack-related perceptions and responses: results from a continuous tracking survey

Sally M Dunlop, Timothy Dobbins, Jane M Young, Donna Perez, David C Currow
BMJ Open 2014, 4 (12): e005836

OBJECTIVES: To investigate the impact of Australia's plain tobacco packaging policy on two stated purposes of the legislation--increasing the impact of health warnings and decreasing the promotional appeal of packaging--among adult smokers.

DESIGN: Serial cross-sectional study with weekly telephone surveys (April 2006-May 2013). Interrupted time-series analyses using ARIMA modelling and linear regression models were used to investigate intervention effects.

PARTICIPANTS: 15,745 adult smokers (aged 18 years and above) in New South Wales (NSW), Australia. Random selection of participants involved recruiting households using random digit dialling and selecting the nth oldest smoker for interview.

INTERVENTION: The introduction of the legislation on 1 October 2012.

OUTCOMES: Salience of tobacco pack health warnings, cognitive and emotional responses to warnings, avoidance of warnings, perceptions regarding one's cigarette pack.

RESULTS: Adjusting for background trends, seasonality, antismoking advertising activity and cigarette costliness, results from ARIMA modelling showed that, 2-3 months after the introduction of the new packs, there was a significant increase in the absolute proportion of smokers having strong cognitive (9.8% increase, p=0.005), emotional (8.6% increase, p=0.01) and avoidant (9.8% increase, p=0.0005) responses to on-pack health warnings. Similarly, there was a significant increase in the proportion of smokers strongly disagreeing that the look of their cigarette pack is attractive (57.5% increase, p<0.0001), says something good about them (54.5% increase, p<0.0001), influences the brand they buy (40.6% increase, p<0.0001), makes their pack stand out (55.6% increase, p<0.0001), is fashionable (44.7% increase, p<0.0001) and matches their style (48.1% increase, p<0.0001). Changes in these outcomes were maintained 6 months postintervention.

CONCLUSIONS: The introductory effects of the plain packaging legislation among adult smokers are consistent with the specific objectives of the legislation in regard to reducing promotional appeal and increasing effectiveness of health warnings.

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