Australia passed the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act in 2011. Once the law was implemented in December 2012, tobacco companies were not allowed to brand cigarettes, cigars, and waterpipe tobacco using images, logos, or slogans. In addition, 70% of the front of tobacco packages had to contain graphic and verbal health warnings (an increase from 30%). Proponents of the regulation claimed that it would reduce tobacco consumption based on experimental evidence that branding increases product appeal and distracts consumers from warning labels. David Underwood and colleagues investigated whether the plain packaging mandate in Australia has had its intended effect.
What were the research questions?
Did the prevalence of smoking and amount of tobacco consumption decrease in Australia following a ban on branding tobacco products? Was this decrease over and above what one would expect given existing trends in tobacco use?