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New study shows cigarette packs make some smokers think there are 'safer' cigarettes

Thursday 14 April, 2011

One out of five smokers still think some cigarettes are safer than others, reinforcing the Federal government's decision to strip cigarette packs of their branding and colour and make them plain.

A total of 8,243 current and former adult were interviewed for the study, published in the international journal Addiction this week - including 2,000 Australians.


  • Smokers of ‘light/mild' and ‘slim' cigarettes thought that some cigarettes could be less harmful
  • Smokers who smoked ‘gold', ‘silver', ‘blue' or ‘purple' coloured brands were more likely to believe their own brand might be less harmful compared to smokers of ‘red' or ‘black' coloured brands.

Study co-author and Cancer Council Victoria Researcher Professor Ron Borland said the findings highlighted another reason why plain packaging was so important.

"There is no such thing as a safe cigarette. Those in lighter coloured boxes are doing the same damage as those in darker coloured boxes, but through some clever marketing tobacco companies are masking the harm."

"We know the colour of the pack, indeed even just naming a brand a lighter colour, leads to some smokers believing these cigarettes are less harmful than others."

"By stripping cigarette packs of their branding, we can help get rid of these misconceptions. That's why plain packaging is so important."

Quit Executive Director Fiona Sharkie said although terms such as ‘light' and ‘mild' had been banned in Australia for some time, pack design and other descriptive words still evoked beliefs that some cigarettes were safer than others.

"You can still legally put ‘smooth,' ‘ultimate' and ‘slims' on packs for instance and these words we find are still making some smokers think they are getting away with a ‘safer' alternative to other cigarettes. But all the research on this shows it's simply not true - every cigarette, no matter what type, is doing you damage."

"Plain packaging will take away these false perceptions. It will also make smoking less appealing to young people and make graphic health warnings stand out more. It's vital that members of all political parties support the legislation when it goes before parliament in a few months."

Find out the facts about plain packaging of cigarettes, including a summary of research evidence.