A review of various studies evaluating the impact of standardised tobacco packaging has revealed that plain or standardised packaging of cigarettes could lead to a reduction in smoking prevalence and reduce the appeal of tobacco.

The compilation, New Cochrane Review, was published by a team of Canadian and UK researchers associated with global not-for-profit organisation Cochrane.

A total of 51 different studies with around 800,000 people were taken into account before publishing the review in Cochrane Library.

The studies showed that only one country had implemented standardised packaging during the time of conducting the review, but that the prevalence of tobacco use may have decreased as a result.

"The evidence we have so far suggests that standardised packaging may reduce smoking prevalence and increase quit attempts."

A reduction in smoking behaviour is supported by routinely collected data from the Government of Australia, the first country in the world to implement plain packaging of tobacco products. 

The New Cochrane Review also includes data from other studies that verify that appeal is lower with standardised packaging and this could help to explain the observed decline in smoking prevalence.

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During their review, the researchers did not find any evidence suggesting that plain packaging may increase tobacco use.

No studies directly measured whether plain packs influence uptake, stop, or prevent former smokers from taking up smoking again.

Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group, Oxford, UK, representative and New Cochrane Review co-author Jamie Hartmann-Boyce said: “Our evidence suggests that standardised packaging can change attitudes and beliefs about smoking, and the evidence we have so far suggests that standardised packaging may reduce smoking prevalence and increase quit attempts.

“We didn’t find any studies on whether changing tobacco packaging affects the number of young people starting to smoke, and we look forward to further research on this topic.”

In 2008, the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued guidelines in terms of standardised tobacco packaging.

A number of countries have already implemented the guidelines, or are in the process of implementing standardised packaging for tobacco.