Support for plain packaging continues to grow across NSW, with three quarters of the state, and half of all smokers now in favour of the regulation, a new survey reveals.
The preliminary findings, released on the eve of World No Tobacco Day, are part of the draft NSW Smoking and Health Survey 2015.
It also shows plain packaging is having a profound impact on young smokers aged 18-39, with half reporting a positive change in their smoking behaviour, including thinking about quitting, smoking less or trying to quit as a result of the policy.
Chief Cancer Officer and CEO of the Cancer Institute NSW, Professor David Currow, highlighted the importance of these findings at a time when plain packaging is front of mind globally.
“This World No Tobacco Day we are celebrating that the UK and France are following Australia’s lead and introducing plain packaging legislation for tobacco, with Ireland and Hungary following close behind,” Professor Currow says.
“These preliminary findings are the latest in a growing body of evidence that supports the effectiveness of plain packaging as a policy measure.”
After pioneering plain packaging in 2012, Australia is today poised to help major countries worldwide welcome the new legislation.
Why does plain packaging work?
Plain packaging removes logos, colours, brand images and promotional information from cigarette packages.
It makes all packs a standard colour, with a standard font, and it features a large, graphic health warning.
It reduces attractiveness to consumers, most importantly young people, to stop them taking up smoking, and reduces appeal to current smokers to help them quit.
It’s a long-term public health measure designed to work as part of a comprehensive tobacco control strategy.
Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in NSW, and the biggest contributing risk factor to cancer.
Young smokers leading in plain packaging change
The new data from the draft NSW Smoking and Health Survey 2015 shows plain packaging is having a greater impact now than when it was first introduced:
- 15 per cent of smokers have tried to quit – up from 3 per cent in 2013.
- 20 per cent of smokers thought about quitting – up from 13 per cent in 2013.
- 18 per cent of smokers were smoking less – up from 9 per cent in 2013.
Importantly, 50 per cent of young smokers reported changing their smoking behaviour because of plain packaging, higher than any other age group.
“This survey indicates that smokers, especially young smokers, are not only thinking differently about their smoking behaviour, but are taking action,” Professor Currow says.
“We see evidence of this with the youth smoking rate at an all time low of 6.7 per cent.
“When you consider the serious health consequences of smoking – as a cause of many cancers and chronic diseases – the benefits will be felt right across the community for generations to come.”
In January 2016 it was announced youth smoking rates in NSW had fallen to their lowest levels ever thanks to control measures including plain packaging of cigarettes.
Helping pioneer change
Today, plain packaging is extending far beyond Australia.
In May 2016 the United Kingdom and France introduced plain packaging of cigarettes, with several more countries working towards changing legislation.