Removing labels and branding from cigarette packs could be the newest tool for keeping new smokers from ever starting. That’s what a new series of studies suggest. They also suggest plain cigarette packs could keep regular smokers from lighting up as much.

The studies’ findings are largely based on Australia’s policy to standardize packaging back in 2012.

So, what did the studies find? For current smokers, researchers suggest there is a connection between the branding of their cigarette pack and their urge to smoke.

“Plain packaging may reduce smoking rates in current smokers by reducing the extent to which the package acts as an unconscious trigger for smoking urges,” according to a press release published in Addiction Journal.

You might think there’s no correlation between branding and actually smoking. Yet according to the studies, the tobacco industry conducted vast consumer research between 1973 and 2002. Differences in packaging shape, size and opening method could influence its appeal and increase cigarette sales.

Australia’s move to plain packaging and large health warnings did work. Smoking in outdoor areas of cafes, restaurants and bars declined. The English government has put forth its own regulations on plain packaging. A vote on the packaging is expected sometime in May. Should it pass, England would be the second country in the world to adopt standardized packaging.

The studies do note that removing branding can be effective for deterring casual or experimental adolescent smokers. But, it has little to no effect on daily adolescent smokers.

Plain packaging’s primary goal would be keeping new smokers away. Make the product less appealing, and it won’t be a draw for kids. Professor Robert West, Editor-in-Chief of Addiction said even a minimal impact of plain packaging could save countless lives.

“Even if standardized packaging had no effect at all on current smokers and only stopped 1 in 20 young people from being lured into smoking it would save about 2,000 lives each year,” West said.


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