A new study from the University of Stirling has revealed that the impact of health warnings on plain-packaged cigarettes is higher on smokers compared to those on fully branded packs.

According to the study, 79% of smokers agreed that they were currently using standardised packs, while 9% noted that they were not currently using standardised packs but used previously, and 14% never used them.

Researchers from the Institute of Social Marketing at the University of Stirling conducted the survey in 2017 in an effort to explore how smokers responded to standardised (plain) packaging.

The study focused on key areas such as an association between using standardised packs and the health warnings, thoughts about the risks of smoking, thoughts about quitting, as well as the awareness and use of stop-smoking websites.

The research team conducted a cross-sectional online survey between February and April 2017 with 1,865 current smokers aged 16+ from Yorkshire and Humber and the West Midlands.

Compared to those who had never used standardised packs, smokers using standardised packs have noticed the warnings ‘often’ or ‘very often’, read warnings closely ‘often’ or ‘very often’, and thought ‘somewhat’ or ‘a lot’ about the health risks of smoking and quitting.

“UK smokers currently using standardised packs were more likely than those who had never used standardised packs to have noticed and read, or looked closely at, the health warnings.”

University of Stirling Institute of Social Marketing Senior Research Fellow Dr Crawford Moodie said: “We found that UK smokers currently using standardised packs were more likely than those who had never used standardised packs to have noticed and read, or looked closely at, the health warnings, thought about the risks, and thought about quitting due to the look of the pack.

“They were also more likely to report awareness of a stop-smoking website and cite warnings on packs of cigarettes or rolling tobacco as a source of awareness.”

The study noted that warnings used on standardised packs were novel and larger, and displayed pictorial images on both main display areas compared to those on fully branded packs that displayed pictorial images on the reverse.

The study was funded by Cancer Research UK in collaboration with King’s College London.