Bright colours and descriptions of flavours on cigarillo packaging have a greater impact on customers than text and pictorial warnings about the possible effects on health, a study has revealed.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Centre in the US studied the impact of flavour descriptions and colours on the products’ appeal.

As part of the study, 2,664 young adults, divided among current users, never users, or past users of little cigars and cigarillos, were surveyed.

The results of the survey revealed that respondents rated cigarillo packs containing colours and a flavour description more positively.

The study also indicated that health warnings on the pack did not fully achieve the intended goal to decrease the number of smokers.

UNC School of Medicine Department of Family Medicine social and clinical research specialist Clare Meernik said: “This is the first quantitative evidence that cigarillo packaging can influence young adults’ perceptions of these products, and can make them more appealing.

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“This is the first quantitative study that provides evidence showing that commonly used cigarillo packaging elements influence both tobacco users and non-users.”

“Even on packs that include a text or pictorial warning, packs with colours or flavour descriptors were rated more favourably on taste, smell and appeal.”

Although there are restrictions in the US on flavours in cigarettes, new Food and Drug Administration regulations for cigarillos, cigars and other tobacco products do not have provision for mandatory curbs on product flavours.

Users feel that cigarette packs with plain packaging are less appealing and that the cigarettes contained in these packs have lower taste and quality.

UNC School of Medicine Department of Family Medicine professor and the study’s senior author Adam Goldstein said: “This is the first quantitative study that provides evidence showing that commonly used cigarillo packaging elements influence both tobacco users and non-users.

“These findings have important policy implications nationally, given the FDA’s recently extended regulatory authority over all tobacco products, including cigarillos.”

During the survey, participants were asked to randomly rate packages that varied on different design elements such as flavour descriptor, pack colour, shape, branding and warning type.

It was found that packs containing colours and flavour descriptors had a greater impact on perceptions of young adults who did not use cigarillos previously.

The researchers called for a ban on flavour descriptors, product flavouring, and for plain packaging to become mandatory for cigarillos.