Cancer prevention at the population level: Standardised packaging


Session type:

Ann McNeill1
1King’s College London and the UK Centre for Tobacco


Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable cancers worldwide and accounts for 64,000 new cases of cancer each year in the UK, where smoking is increasingly concentrated on those in more disadvantaged groups in society. It has long been recognised that tobacco advertising promotes smoking and evidence showed that as governments prohibited mainstream channels of advertising, the industry focused its attention on the tobacco pack instead, which has been referred to as the ‘silent salesman’. Standardised or plain tobacco packaging was proposed to counter this. Population level policies of this nature do not however lend themselves to randomised controlled trials, so other research designs are needed. This presentation will outline the range of studies that were developed to test the impact of branded versus standardised packaging which concluded that the latter was less appealing, made health warnings more salient and decreased the likelihood of believing that some tobacco brands were safer than others. Following implementation (Australia was the first country to introduce this policy in 2012 and the UK began implementation in April 2016) other studies have been carried out to explore the impact of the policy on attitudes, beliefs and behaviour. The difficulties of carrying out research in this area in the face of sustained opposition from the tobacco industry will also be discussed and the issues this raises for researchers across other areas of cancer prevention.