Background: In an attempt to minimize the pack design avenue of communication between tobacco producers and smokers and potential smokers, several jurisdictions, including Norway, have considered regulations on cigarette pack design. The main aim of the current study was to investigate how package design affects young people's perceptions of typical smokers of some pre-chosen cigarette brands and brand varieties.
Methods: Based on data from a web survey among 1022 15-22 year-olds, possible effects of plain packaging of cigarettes on adolescents' views about typical cigarette smokers were investigated. The data collection had a between-subjects design, in which participants were allocated to one of three groups, and asked to typify the smokers of selected cigarette packs either in branded, plain or plain with descriptor versions. The sample included boys and girls, and smokers and non-smokers. The smoker characteristics included in the investigation were: gender, glamour, stylishness, popularity, coolness, sophistication and slimness.
Results: After creating sum-scores within and across packs and pack versions, analyses indicated that a shift from branded to plain cigarette packaging would result in a reduction in positive user images related to smoking among adolescents and young adults. For girls, this effect held up after controlling for confounders.
Conclusions: To the extent that plain packaging contributes to making smoking images less positive, it can potentially be an efficient aid in reducing smoking uptake among adolescents.