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Plain cigarette packaging could drive 300,000 Britons to quit smoking

Review by research organisation Cochrane indicates wallop of UKs ban on branded jam-packs could echo outcomes considered to be in Australia

Plain cigarette cartons featuring large-scale, graphic health warnings could urge 300,000 people in the UK to quit smoking if the relevant measures has the effect it had in Australia, scientists say.

Standardised cigarette packaging will be compulsory in the UK from 20 May. A new review from the independent health research organisation Cochrane on the impact of plain packaging around the world has found that it does affect the behaviour of smokers.

In the UK, the tobacco industry are growing increasingly innovative in the specific characteristics of cigarette packets as other controls on sales and publicize have taken hold, according to Ann McNeill, prof of tobacco addiction at Kings College London. The tobacco industry has been focusing its efforts on the tobacco jam-packs, she told.

Among those that will be banned are vibrant pink packets, targeted at young woman, and gimmicky cartons that slip rather than flip open. The principles that come into force next month require all jam-packs to look alike, with graphic health warnings across 65% of their surface.

The Cochrane reviewers saw 51 studies that looked at standardised packaging and its impact on smokers, but simply one country had implemented the rule amply at the time. Australia brought in plain jam-packs in 2012.

Analysing the evidence from Australia, the team saw a decrease in smoking of 0.5% up to 1 year after the implementation of policies was introduced. According to the Australian government, that translates to 100,000 people no longer smoking. The wane was attributable specifically to plain packaging, after taking into account the continuing drop in the numbers of smokers caused by other tobacco control measures.

Dr Jamie Hartmann-Boyce of the Cochrane tobacco addiction group at Oxford Universitys Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences told: We are not able to say for sure what the impact would be in the UK, but if the same size of lessen was seen in the UK as was observed in Australia, this would carry to approximately 300,000 fewer smokers following the implementation of standardised packaging.

The review saw signs that more people were trying to quit smoking as a result of plain cartons, rising from 20.2% before to 26.6% after foreword. There was also proof that standardised jam-packs were less attractive to those who did not smoking, stirring it less likely that they are able to start.

However, the researchers announce variations in the way countries are introducing standardised jam-packs may affect the outcomes. Some allow different colourings, somewhat different container shapes and the use of descriptive terms such as amber or smooth.

Cancer Research UK backs plain packaging. Smoking kills 100,000 people in the UK every year, so we support any effective measuring which can help reduce this devastating effects. The prove would point out that standardised packaging runs and helps to reduce smoking rates, told George Butterworth, the charitys tobacco plan manager.

Its too soon to see the impact in the UK, as the regulations will only be fully implemented in May, but we hope to see similar positive results as the UK strives towards a day when no infant smokes tobacco. Cancer Research UK is continuing to evaluate the impact of standardised packaging in the UK and will share the lessons with other countries who are considering introducing them.

Simon Clark, administrator of the smokers group Forest, said the idea that plain packaging would have an impact on the number of smokers in the UK was based on hope and anecdotal evidence.

Since plain packaging was introduced in Australia, smoking rates have fallen, but simply in accordance with historical trends, he told. Its understand at straws to credit plain packaging with the continuation of the reduced by smoking rates, because the most significant anti-smoking measuring in recent years in Australia has been a massive increase in tobacco taxation. Like graphic health warnings, the novelty of plain packaging soon wears off.

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