The impact of cigarette pack shape, size and opening: evidence from tobacco company documents

Addiction. 2013 Sep;108(9):1658-68. doi: 10.1111/add.12183. Epub 2013 Apr 22.


Aims: To use tobacco industry documents on cigarette pack shape, size and openings to identify industry findings on associations with brand imagery, product attributes, consumer perceptions and behaviour.

Methods: Internal tobacco industry research and marketing documents obtained through court disclosure contained in the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library were searched using keywords related to pack shapes, sizes and opening methods. The search identified 66 documents related to consumer research and marketing plans on pack shape, size and openings, drawn from 1973 to 2002.

Results: Industry research consistently found that packs that deviated from the traditional flip-top box projected impressions of 'modern', 'elegant' and 'unique' brand imagery. Alternative pack shape and openings were identified as an effective means to communicate product attributes, particularly with regard to premium quality and smooth taste. Consumer studies consistently found that pack shape, size and opening style influenced perceptions of reduced product harm, and were often used to communicate a 'lighter' product. Slim, rounded, oval and booklet packs were found to be particularly appealing among young adults, and several studies demonstrated increased purchase interest for tobacco products presented in novel packaging shape or opening. Evidence from consumer tracking reports and company presentations indicate that pack innovations in shape or opening method increased market share of brands.

Conclusions: Consumer research by the tobacco industry between 1973 and 2002 found that variations in packaging shape, size and opening method could influence brand appeal and risk perceptions and increase cigarette sales.

Keywords: Marketing; packaging; tobacco; tobacco industry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Consumer Behavior
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intention
  • Male
  • Marketing
  • Perception
  • Product Packaging*
  • Smoking / psychology*
  • Tobacco Industry
  • Tobacco Products*
  • Young Adult