Plain packaging makes smokers think their cigarettes have deteriorated in quality and it leaves them less satisfied, the first research into the impact of plain packaging in Australia has found.

The research found 30.6 per cent of smokers using plain packaging perceived their cigarettes to be of lower quality than a year earlier, compared with 18.1 per cent of smokers using branded cigarettes.

Plain-packaged cigarettes in olive green cartons, with graphic health warnings covering more than half of the box, were first sold in Australia last October and became compulsory in December.

“As soon as those packs started to roll out, we were getting lots of anecdotal reports about people thinking the taste had changed or the industry had done something to the cigarettes, which they hadn't.

"It just goes to show how powerful packaging actually is in terms of what people’s perception is of what they’re getting,” said programme director Kylie Lindorff.

The research is the first in the world to examine the impact of compulsory plain packaging on smokers — other research has been based on exposing smokers to a single pack of plain—packaged cigarettes or mocking up plain packs for smokers.

“Plain packaging works. If it didn’t, there would be no way the tobacco industry would be fighting it so hard. If the industry is jumping up and down as much as they are, then you certainly know it is likely to have an impact and they know it,” she said.

— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2013

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