You don't need to be signed in to read BMJ Blogs, but you can register here to receive updates about other BMJ products and services via our site.

Archive for July, 2013

While the UK calls for more evidence, new Australian study shows cigarette plain packaging works

22 Jul, 13 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

Plain cigarette packaging works: study

By Sunanda Creagh, The Conversation and Alexia Attwood, The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation.

Plain packaging on tobacco products is associated with lower smoking appeal, greater support for the policy and a higher urgency to quit among adult smokers, a new study has found.

Since last year, cigarettes in Australia are sold in unbranded packets that feature a larger graphic health warning with new information messages and confronting images. AAP Image/Department of Health and Ageing

The study, conducted by Victorian researchers and published in the BMJ, is the first to examine how plain packaging affects smokers thoughts in practice following the roll-out of plain packaging laws in Australia in late 2012. Previous studies have only looked at simulated plain packs.

Australia was the first country in the world to introduce plain packaging laws. The UK had considered following suit but has reportedly shelved plans to do so.

The researchers surveyed 536 cigarette smokers with a usual brand, of whom 72.3% were smoking from a plain pack and 27.7% were smoking from a branded pack. The participants were based in Victoria and surveyed by phone between November 1 and December 3 2012.

“Compared with branded pack smokers, those smoking from plain packs perceived their cigarettes to be lower in quality, tended to perceive their cigarettes as less satisfying than a year ago, were more likely to have thought about quitting at least once a day in the past week and to rate quitting as a higher priority in their lives. Plain pack smokers were more likely to support the policy than branded pack smokers,” the researchers said in their paper.

“Given that Australia is the first nation to implement plain packaging, our study provides an early investigation of its actual effects on smokers in a market where plain packs are available to all.”

At the time the survey was conducted, some smokers were still able to purchase branded packs. The researchers acknowledged that “those less interested in quitting may have been more likely to avoid the plain packs” but said they adjusted their results to account for this factor.

No surprise

Simon Chapman, Professor of Public Health at the University of Sydney and a vocal proponent of plain packaging laws, said “every consumer goods manufacturer knows that packaging and price are front and centre of the appeal of products.”

“Think of your own behaviour when you stand facing a wall of different wine within your price range and why you select the bottle you do. Massive research goes into maximising the appeal of the look of cigarette packs, like all products. They cue expectations and tobacco industry internal research has long shown that many smokers cannot discern even their own brand in blinded tests,” he said.

“So it is no surprise that our plain packaging is producing negative findings for the tobacco industry. They would have known this was coming.”

Paul Harrison, a Senior lecturer at Deakin University’s Graduate School of Business who has previously written on the topic of plain packaging, said the new research “presents itself as a good study.”

“In terms of findings, it’s something I would have predicted as well. The one thing I have said previously [is that] these kind of changes will not see dramatic instant change in behaviour,” he said,

“We will see incremental shifts in it being easier to not be a smoker than it is to be a smoker. And these are the aims of all these types of programs.”

Dr Harrison said he expected the tobacco industry to dispute the study’s findings.

“I think what we will see in practice is the cigarette lobby, including all the companies funded by cigarette companies, who will say things like: it’s a small sample, they will say no dramatic changes, they will say it is not effective,” he said.

“In terms of it being used in practice, I think the health authorities can feel the change to plain packs is a good step and, internationally, legislatures and governments that are interested in the health of the community should look at the study and say this is something worth doing.”

The Conversation
Read the original article.

New WHO report: more tobacco advertising bans, smoke free spaces save millions of lives

11 Jul, 13 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor


The World Health Organisation Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic 2013 was launched in Panama City on 10 July. Panama was selected as the venue for this high level, global event in recognition of the country’s leadership in tobacco control.

The report shows the number of people worldwide covered by at least one life-saving measure to limit tobacco use has more than doubled in the last five years. Three billion people are now covered by national anti-tobacco campaigns. Other highlights include:

  • The number of people covered by tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (TAPS) bans, the focus of this year’s report, increased by almost 400 million people, the majority of whom reside in low and middle-income countries.
  • 24 countries with 694 million people have introduced complete TAPS bans. However, 67 countries currently do not ban any TAPS activities, or have a ban that excludes advertising in national broadcast and print media.
  •  Effective health warning labels on tobacco packaging continue to be established by more countries. In the past five years, a total of 20 countries with 657 million people put strong warning label requirements in place.
  • More than half a billion people in nine countries have gained access to appropriate cessation services in the past five years. However, there has been little progress since 2010, as only four additional countries with a combined population of 85 million were newly provided access to cost-covered services including a toll-free national quit line.
  • Creation of smoke-free public places and workplaces continues to be the most commonly established measure at the highest level of achievement. 32 countries have passed complete smoking bans covering all work places, public places and public transportation means between 2007 and 2012, protecting nearly 900 million additional people.
  • Nearly 3.8 billion people (54% of the world’s population) live in a country that has aired at least one national anti-tobacco mass media campaign on TV and/or radio for a duration of at least three weeks in the past two years.

The report is the fourth in a series by WHO on MPOWER measures – the six evidence-based tobacco control measures that are the most effective in reducing tobacco use. (Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies, Protect people from tobacco smoke, Offer help to quit tobacco use, Warn people about the dangers of tobacco, Enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, and Raise taxes on tobacco

Read more and download the report here.

Click here for additional reporting from the World Lung Foundation.

Cameroon: Cigarettes are eating your baby alive campaign

4 Jul, 13 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor


Today marks the launch of the first-ever national mass media campaign to warn people of Cameroon about the harms of tobacco. The campaign, called ‘Cigarettes Are Eating Your Baby Alive,’ was developed by the Ministry of Health and World Lung Foundation. It graphically depicts how tobacco harms not both smokers, as well as their children and loved ones exposed to tobacco smoke. It will air on TV, radio, outdoor venues and SMS for eight weeks. The campaign is designed to empower citizens with new knowledge and spur advocacy and government to protect citizens from tobacco.

The campaign concept was rated as effective by African audiences in rigorous testing of tobacco control messaging conducted by World Lung Foundation in 2012. It was originally developed by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and has been used effectively in Bangladesh, India, Mexico, Russia, and Vietnam, among other countries.

This mass media campaign was carried out with the technical and financial support of the Africa Tobacco Control Consortium (ATCC), Africa Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA) and the Framework Convention Alliance. Additional funding was provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies.

To view the public service announcement (French and English), click here.

Cameroon - cigarettes are eating you and your baby

World No Tobacco Day: a wrap up of reports and pictures from around the world

4 Jul, 13 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor


World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) is held every year on 31 May. The World Health Organisation (WHO) and partners everywhere highlight the health risks associated with tobacco use and advocate for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption. In 2013, the theme was ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

A comprehensive ban of all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship is required under the WHO Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) for all Parties. Evidence shows that comprehensive advertising bans lead to reductions in the numbers of people starting and continuing smoking.  Statistics show that banning tobacco advertising and sponsorship is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce tobacco demand and thus a tobacco control “best buy”.Despite the effectiveness of comprehensive bans, only 6% of the world’s population was fully protected from exposure to the tobacco industry advertising, promotion and sponsorship tactics in 2010.

To help reduce tobacco use, comprehensive advertising, promotion and sponsorship bans work to counteract:

  • the deceptive and misleading nature of tobacco marketing campaigns;
  • the unavoidable exposure of youth to tobacco marketing;
  • the failure of the tobacco industry to effectively self-regulate; and
  • the ineffectiveness of partial bans.

Attempts by the tobacco industry to undermine the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) are becoming ever more aggressive. For example, where jurisdictions have banned advertising of tobacco products through point-of-sale displays – known as tobacco “powerwalls” – or banned the advertising and promotional features of tobacco packaging through standardised packaging, the tobacco industry has sued governments in national courts and through international trade mechanisms. The tobacco industry also uses sponsorship and especially corporate social responsibility tactics to trick public opinion into believing in their respectability and good intentions while they manoeuver to hijack the political and legislative process. Click here to read more about WHO WNTD 2013 and see campaign materials.

World No Tobacco Day Awards

Every year, WHO recognizes individuals or organisations for their accomplishments in the area of tobacco control. This year, Mr Paul Kasereka Lughembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Honourable Dr Pradit Sintavanarong, Minister of Public Health, the Kingdom of Thailand were recognised for the WHO Director-General Special awards. His Excellency the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Republic of Turkey received the WHO Director-General’s Special Recognition certificate. Click here to read a full list of awards given in all six WHO regions.

Other events by country/region:

Bolivia: the Health and Sport Ministry, in coordination with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), WHO, the  Municipal Government of La Paz, the Bolivian Police and Armed Forces organised a  festival to inform people of the negative effects that nicotine produces on the  body. WNTD was also an opportunity highlight the findings from a study which showed increased smoking among young women, and a lower age of initiation. Read more here.

Congo: The tobacco control group ROCAT in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Population and WHO Country celebrated World No Tobacco Day 2013 with a series of events including a press Conference by the Minister of Health briefing, outreach campaigns, and TV and radio coverage. Read more here.

Gabon: WNTD in Gabon focused on a number of high level meetings held with key authorities including the President of the National Assembly and the Minister Delegate to Health. Held from 28-30 May, the meetings were a chance to discuss government policy making in relation to tobacco control. Read more here.

India: a range of events were held around the country, including a national stakeholder consultation on improving the implementation of TAPS bans, rallies, skits, art exhibitions and ‘walls of shame’ of TAPS violations. Read more here.

Jamaica: An outside broadcast addressing tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (TAPS) was held, as well as a national forum. Read more here.

Pacific Islands: The Cook Islands received a WHO WNTD award for its progress in tobacco control since ratifying the FCTC in 2004. Several countries also participated in a project designed to encourage sharing of information by email.  Participating countries chose a letter from W, N, T or D to display as part of their activities with a flag in the photo.  The intention is to make a poster of tobacco control in the Pacific by “stitching” the photos together featuring the letters to spell out WNTD 2013. Read more here.

Pakistan: Activities included seminars, orientation sessions, rallies/walks, speech/poster/sports competitions, interactive theatre, signature campaigns, banner/poster displays, picketing & meetings. Participants included local government officials, law enforcement authorities, parliamentarians, health & education government departments, media, lawyers, civil society organizations, youth and community members. In Islamabad,  a 150 feet long banner carrying signatures from tobacco control activists from all over the country demanding strict tobacco control laws and their effective implementation was displayed. Read more here.

Poland: A seminar  to integrate efforts for effective enforcement of ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship took place on 29 May. It was accompanied by a photographic exhibition featuring examples of tobacco industry violation and circumvention of TAPS bans at sport events and other cultural, educational, social and political activities. Read more here.

Romania: World No Tobacco Day in Romania highlighted the European Commission’s Ex-smokers are unstoppable’ campaign. A media roundtable was held, where two doctors discussed the benefits of smoking cessation. Two ex-smokers also shared their personal stories of quitting smoking. Read more here.

Switzerland: NGO CIPRET ran an advertisement campaign in the canton of Geneva for WNTD with posters displayed in over 350 locations throughout the city and canton, and large ads in newspaper. As Switzerland has very weak legislation concerning tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship the campaign was somewhat provocative – and provoked a strong reaction from the advertising industry. This post also contains an outline of events at WHO headquarters. Read more here.

The Philippines: The Philippines took a creative and confronting approach to WNTD. In the capital Manila, commuters were stunned to find grisly crime scenes in various locations in the metro. The cause of death: tobacco. The tobacco ‘crime scenes’ were actually art installations vividly illustrating what tobacco companies don’t want people to see: smoking kills. Read more here.

USA: Is this the world that tobacco ads hope to build? This the question asked by a video produced by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH). Click here.

Vietnam: social media, a bike rally and public transport get the message out. The national week of Tobacco Control in Vietnam kicked off with a ceremony held on 25 May, which attracted 450 participants from the National Assembly, Government Offices, related Ministries, WHO Vietnam, Tobacco Control Working Groups, mass media and students. Colourful local events were also held in Hue and Nha Trang cities. Read more here.


World No Tobacco Day India: rallies, art, skits, walls of shame and policy progress

4 Jul, 13 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor



National: Government and NGOs join hands to completely ban Tobacco Advertising, Promotion and Sponsorship (TAPS)

Credit: Nikunj Sharma, HRIDAY

A national level multi-stakeholder consultation was held in New Delhi, at which the government and NGOs resolved in favour of a complete ban on advertising, promotion and sponsorship (TAPS) of tobacco products. The health secretary of the ministry of health and family welfare, Shri Keshav Desiraju while inaugurating the wall of shame said: “We will issue guidelines to the departments concerned to ensure that appropriate action is taken to prevent violation of TAPS”.

The intent of the consultation was to deliberate on development of national guidelines/recommendations for a ban on TAPS and effective enforcement of Section 5 of COTPA – the Indian tobacco control law, which prohibits any form of direct or indirect TAPS. State Focal Points (Tobacco Control), State Consultants (NTCP), State WHO Consultants and civil society organizations working on tobacco control, from nearly 15 sates of the country attended the consultation.

Major highlights of the consultation included:

  • Unveiling of A ‘Wall of Shame’ – a photo exhibition of TAPS violations
  • Release of an advocacy film      covering various kinds of TAPS violations
  • Release of an advocacy toolkit

The consultation was organized by HRIDAY (Health Related Information Dissemination Amongst Youth) and Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI) in collaboration with The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), GoI and World Health Organization Country Office for India.

Tamil Nadu: Illustrations to counter challenges against Tobacco

Credit: S Cyril Alexander, Mary Anne Charity Trust

Mary Anne Charity Trust (MACT) is an NGO in Tamil Nadu state which works actively in the advocacy of change in policies related to tobacco. MACT along with Tamil Nadu State Tobacco Control Cell, Cancer Society India and other NGOS organised “Tamil Nadu- Illustrators for Tobacco Control,” on May 31 to commemorate World No Tobacco Day.

The Mayor of Chennai Corporation, Honourable Saidai Samiyappan Duraisamy inaugurated the event and gave the key note address. The mayor appreciated the goal of the event to take the art works to the government schools and educate the children about the danger of consuming tobacco.

20 illustrators joined to create art works on various tobacco related concepts. They used their creative skills to create awareness on the negative effects of tobacco products. They addressed key issues like negative effects of smoking, health problems caused due to tobacco products, and economic loss of the smokers’ family.

The public got an opportunity to see the illustrators in action. They gathered around the illustrators with curiosity and were much thrilled about the work that was carried out. The event met with its objective when the public enthusiastically discussed about tobacco and its ill effects.

The illustrations that were created will serve as knowledge building tool in exhibitions conducted in schools across the state in an effort to educate the kids on the ill effects of tobacco.

MACT photo 1 MACT photo 2

















Lucknow, Mumbai and Kanpur activities organised by the Cancer Aid Society

Credit: Preeti Gupta and Neha Tripathi, Cancer Aid Society India

WNTD was busy in Lucknow. Activities included a rally, a cancer screening camp, and a ‘wall of shame’ of violations of India’s TAPS ban.  This was followed by a pledge for non-smoking and quiz competition. Similar activities, also organised by the Cancer Aid Society, were held in Mumbai and Kanpur.

















New Delhi: poster and skit competitions

Credit: Rita Thokchom, Indian Cancer Society

The Indian Cancer Society, Delhi, organised a poster and skit competition, held in the lead up to WNTD. Some of the photos of the winners are below:

Indian Cancer Society pic 2Indian Cancer society photo 1

Cigarette pack warnings: a new way to talk directly to smokers?

3 Jul, 13 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor


The tussle between tobacco companies and public health over the valuable advertising real estate that is the cigarette pack could be about to escalate to a whole new level. Researchers at Stirling University in Scotland have created cigarette packs that play recorded health warnings when opened. Funded by Cancer Research UK, the study is inspired by the marketing tools of the tobacco industry, and whether they can be used to help smokers quit instead.

Read more at this BBC report and at


TC blog homepage

TC Blog

Analysis and debate of the latest tobacco control research findings and policy developments. Visit site

Creative Comms logo

Latest from Tobacco Control

Latest from Tobacco Control