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What’s in a brand? Study reveals the impact of plain packaging

Plain tobacco packaging has helped Australians stop smoking and increased attempts to quit by removing the sense of belonging associated with different brands, a new study has found.

The legislation was introduced in Australia in December 2012 in an attempt to reduce cigarette smoking. Under the laws, tobacco products have no branding and feature health warnings.

Study lead Hugh Webb, from ANU, said the policy aimed to encourage smokers to quit and discourage others from taking up the habit, and added early indications are that the reform is achieving some success.

In the study, 178 Australian smokers rated their sense of identification with fellow smokers of their brand, positive brand stereotypes, quitting behaviours and intentions, and smoking intensity, both before and 7 months after the policy change.

The ANU study said tobacco companies don’t just sell cigarettes but strong brand identities that help positively redefine what smoking means for a smoker's sense of self.

"A smoker who identifies as a Winnie Blues Man does not just regularly purchase Winfield tobacco, they also gain a positive sense of who they are by belonging to that social group," Webb explained.

He said the introduction of plain packaging saw smokers' identification with their brand decrease. "This decrease in brand identification was associated with reduced smoking, even after taking into account the importance of health warning labels and how heavily people smoked before the change.”

Click below to hear more from Webb.

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