Was the implementation of standardised tobacco packaging legislation in England associated with changes in smoking prevalence? A segmented regression analysis between 2006 and 2019

Tob Control. 2021 Jul 29:tobaccocontrol-2021-056694. doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2021-056694. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Background and aim: In 2016, England initiated the implementation of standardised tobacco packaging, introduced in conjunction with minimum pack sizes and other measures included in the 2014 European Tobacco Products Directive, over the course of a 1-year sell-off period ending in May 2017. These measures have been shown to have been associated with increases in tobacco prices and product diversity. We now investigate the association between implementation of the new legislation and smoking status in England.

Design: Segmented regression analysis of repeated cross-sectional surveys using a generalised linear model with individual-level data to test for a change in trend and immediate step change.

Setting: England.

Participants: Participants in the Smoking Toolkit Study, which involves repeated, cross-sectional household surveys of individuals aged 16 years and older in England. The sample included 278 219 individual observations collected between November 2006 and December 2019.

Intervention: Implementation of standardised packaging legislation (May 2016 and May 2017).

Measurements: Individual-level current smoking status adjusted for implementation of tobacco control policies, cigarette price, seasonality and autocorrelation.

Findings: The implementation of standardised packaging was associated with a significant step reduction in the odds of being a smoker after May 2017 (OR: 0.93; 95% CI 0.87 to 0.99). The magnitude of the association was similar when modelling the step change in May 2016 at the start of the 1-year policy implementation period (OR: 0.90; 95% CI: 0.83 to 0.97).

Conclusions: This is the first independent study demonstrating that implementation of standardised packaging was associated with a reduction in smoking in England which occurred in anticipation of, rather than after, full policy implementation. It appears that the odds of being a smoker were affected by the prospect of the move to standardised packs and accompanying legislation.

Keywords: advocacy; packaging and labelling; public policy.