The effect of cigarette branding and plain packaging on female youth in the United Kingdom

J Adolesc Health. 2013 Feb;52(2):151-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2012.06.003. Epub 2012 Jul 7.


Purpose: Cigarette packaging is the most prominent form of tobacco marketing remaining in countries such as the United Kingdom. The current study examined perceptions of cigarette packaging among female youth and the potential impact of "plain" cigarette packaging regulations.

Methods: A national sample of 947 16- to 19-year-old female subjects in the United Kingdom completed an online survey. Participants were randomized to view 10 cigarette packs designed according to one of four experimental conditions: fully branded female packs, the same packs without descriptor words, the same packs without brand imagery or descriptors ("plain" packs), and branded non-female brands. Participants rated packs on measures of appeal and health risk, positive smoker image, and completed a behavioral pack selection task.

Results: Plain packs were rated as the least appealing and worse tasting compared with all other conditions. Plain packs were also associated with fewer false beliefs about health risks compared with branded packs. Removing brand descriptors from packs significantly reduced measures of appeal and taste, particularly for brands with flavor descriptors, such as cherry and vanilla. Plain packs were significantly less likely to be associated with positive images, such as glamour, sophistication, and slimness. Most importantly, respondents were significantly less likely to accept a pack of cigarettes when offered only plain versus branded packs (p = .026).

Conclusions: Marketing in the form of pack branding remains a potent tool for increasing the appeal of tobacco products to young women. The findings provide empirical support for plain cigarette packaging regulations in Australia to be implemented in 2012.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attitude*
  • Female
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Marketing*
  • Product Packaging*
  • Smoking / psychology
  • Smoking Prevention*
  • Social Desirability
  • Taste Perception
  • United Kingdom
  • Young Adult