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Please see: Tob Control 2012;21:329

Tob Control 20:367-373 doi:10.1136/tc.2011.042911
  • Research paper

Young adult smokers' perceptions of plain packaging: a pilot naturalistic study

  1. Allison Ford
  1. Institute for Social Marketing, University of Stirling, Stirling, Scotland, UK
  1. Correspondence to Crawford Moodie, Institute for Social Marketing, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA, Scotland, UK; c.s.moodie{at}
  1. Contributors All authors actively contributed to this paper.

  • Received 13 January 2011
  • Accepted 10 June 2011
  • Published Online First 12 July 2011


Aims To explore the impact, if any, that using plain (non-branded) cigarette packs in real-life settings has on young adult smokers.

Methods Naturalistic-type research was employed, where smokers used brown ‘plain’ packs for 2 weeks and their regular packs for 2 weeks, in real-life settings. Participants were recruited in Glasgow, Scotland. Of the 140 smokers aged 18–35 years who participated in the naturalistic study, 48 correctly completed and returned all questionnaires. Over the 4-week study period, participants completed a questionnaire twice a week assessing pack perceptions and feelings, feelings about smoking, salience of health warnings and smoking-related behaviours. A subsample of 18 participated in a post-study interview, which employed a semistructured topic guide to assess perceptions and experiences of using plain packs.

Results Trends in the data show that in comparison with branded packaging, plain packaging increased negative perceptions and feelings about the pack and about smoking. Plain packaging also increased avoidant behaviour (hiding the pack, covering the pack), certain smoking cessation behaviours, such as smoking less around others and forgoing cigarettes, and thinking about quitting. Almost half (n=8) of those in the post-study interview, predominantly women (n=6), reported that the use of plain packs had either increased avoidant behaviour or reduced consumption.

Conclusions This pilot naturalistic study suggests that plain packaging could potentially help reduce tobacco consumption among some young adult smokers, and women in particular. Employing an innovative research methodology, the findings of this study are consistent with, and indeed support, past plain packaging research.


  • Funding Cancer Research UK.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the University of Stirling.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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