Tobacco plain packaging: Evidence based policy or public health advocacy?

Int J Drug Policy. 2015 Jun;26(6):560-8. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2015.03.004. Epub 2015 Mar 24.


In December 2012, Australia became the first country to require all tobacco products be sold solely in standardised or 'plain' packaging, bereft of the manufacturers' trademarked branding and colours, although retaining large graphic and text health warnings. Following the publication of Sir Cyril Chantler's review of the evidence on the effects of plain tobacco packaging, the Ministers of the United Kingdom Parliament voted in March 2015 to implement similar legislation. Support for plain packaging derives from the belief that tobacco products sold in plain packs have reduced appeal and so are more likely to deter young people and non-smokers from starting tobacco use, and more likely to motivate smokers to quit and stay quit. This article considers why support for the plain packaging policy has grown among tobacco control researchers, public health advocates and government ministers, and reviews Australian survey data that speak to the possible introductory effect of plain packaging on smoking prevalence within Australia. The article concludes by emphasising the need for more detailed research to be undertaken before judging the capacity of the plain packaging policy to deliver the multitude of positive effects that have been claimed by its most ardent supporters.

Keywords: Policy analysis; Tobacco plain packaging.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Consumer Advocacy*
  • Consumer Behavior
  • Female
  • Health Policy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Product Labeling / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Product Packaging / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Smoking Cessation / methods*
  • United Kingdom
  • Young Adult