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Plain packaging could help quit attempts

Press Association logoPress Association 27/04/2017 Alexander Britton

The introduction of plain cigarette packaging could lead to more than quarter of a million smokers giving up the habit, Cancer Research UK has said after considering studies from Australia and elsewhere.

Standardised packs could reduce the appeal of tobacco and increase the number of attempts made to quit, experts from the Cochrane Review said.

The review - just weeks ahead of the UK introducing new legislation on cigarette packaging - looked at 51 studies involving around 800,000 people on the impact of removing branding from tobacco.

The UK introduced standardised packaging rules - drab dark brown packs with no graphic branding - in May 2016, and branded packs have been phased out throughout the year.

It will be illegal to sell branded cigarettes from May 20.

Among the studies looked at by the Cochrane Review was one from Australia - where laws have been in place outlawing branded cigarette packets since 2012 - which showed a 0.5 per cent drop in smoking prevalence among participants one year after new rules were introduced.

Cancer Research UK said this would mean 257,000 fewer smokers in Britain if smoking prevalence declined at the same rate.

George Butterworth, the charity's tobacco policy manager, said: "Smoking kills 100,000 people in the UK every year, so we support any effective measure which can help reduce this devastating impact. The evidence shows that standardised packaging works."

Cochrane lead author Professor Ann McNeill from King's College London said: "Evaluating the impact of standardised packaging on smoking behaviour is difficult to do, but the evidence available to us, whilst limited at this time, indicates that standardised packaging may reduce smoking prevalence.

"These findings are supported by evidence from a variety of other studies that have shown that standardised packaging reduces the promotional appeal of tobacco packs."

Co-author Jamie Hartmann-Boyce, from the Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group, said: "Our evidence suggests that standardised packaging can change attitudes and beliefs about smoking, and the evidence we have so far suggests that standardised packaging may reduce smoking prevalence and increase quit attempts."

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