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Cigarette package colour is associated with level of filter ventilation
  1. Richard J O’Connor1,
  2. David Hammond2
  1. 1 Department of Health Behavior, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, New York, USA
  2. 2 School of Public Health and Health Systems, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Professor Richard J O’Connor, Department of Health Behavior, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Elm and Carlton Streets, Buffalo 14226, New York, USA; richard.o%E2%80%99connor{at}

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The cigarette package is, in many markets, the primary means of marketing and advertising cigarette brands to consumers. While some countries have moved to implement plain packaging, most continue to allow product differentiation on the basis of packaging. Colour is often used to communicate implicit messages about taste, risk and quality, and evidence suggests that package colours are specifically chosen to manipulate consumer perceptions through ‘sensation transference’.1 Filter ventilation also has been shown to influence perceptions of harshness and perceived risk.2 3 Filter ventilation is also closely associated with machine-measured tar yield and is generally higher in brands previously marketed as ‘Light’. Light and similar words have in many cases been supplanted by colours or other descriptive terms.4 Bans appear to have had an effect in reducing false beliefs, but substantial levels of false beliefs persist, most likely due to other cues that remained, including replacement descriptors, colour-coded packs and filter ventilation.5 6 Using a large database of packages, we explored the extent to which package colour is related to filter ventilation.

Data for 759 brands purchased …

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  • Acknowledgements The authors would like to acknowledge Jessica Reid and Sara Zukowski for their assistance with data collection and coding.

  • Contributors RJO and DH designed the study and contributed to data collection. RJO conducted data analysis and prepared the first draft. RJO and DH contributed to revising the manuscript.

  • Funding This work was supported by a grant from the US National Cancer Institute (P01 CA138389). Additional funding was provided to DH through a Chair in Applied Public Health, funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada in partnership with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction, and Institute of Population and Public Health.

  • Competing interests DH has provided paid expert testimony on behalf of public health authorities in response to legal challenges from the tobacco industry, including on packaging and labelling regulations.

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