A new study has linked plain packaging on cigarettes to lower smoking appeal, greater support for the policy and a higher urgency to quit among adult smokers.

It appears the new legislation may actually be working, according to researchers in a study published in this month’s US National Institute of Health journal. Australia’s laws to introduce generic packaging and larger, more explicit warnings were rolled out late last year. Regulatory bodies around the world have been waiting for solid statistics on the efficacy of the advertising reforms, with the UK recently shelving its plans for similar changes.

The researchers surveyed 536 cigarette smokers with a usual brand, of whom 72.3% were smoking from a plain pack and 27.7% were smoking from a branded pack. In the resulting paper researchers found: “Compared with branded pack smokers, those smoking from plain packs perceived their cigarettes to be lower in quality, tended to perceive their cigarettes as less satisfying than a year ago, were more likely to have thought about quitting at least once a day in the past week and to rate quitting as a higher priority in their lives. Plain pack smokers were more likely to support the policy than branded pack smokers.”

One of the main proponents of the plain packaging laws has been Simon Chapman, Professor of Public Health at the University of Sydney. Mr Chapman is not in the least bit surprised at the results of the study, saying “think of your own behaviour when you stand facing a wall of different wine within your price range and why you select the bottle you do. Massive research goes into maximising the appeal of the look of cigarette packs, like all products. They cue expectations and tobacco industry internal research has long shown that many smokers cannot discern even their own brand in blinded tests.”

A full report on the results of the survey is available online.