Background Tobacco companies question whether standardised (or ‘plain’) packaging will change smokers’ behaviour. We addressed this question by estimating how standardised packaging compared to a proven tobacco control intervention, price increases through excise taxes, thus providing a quantitative measure of standardised packaging's likely effect.
Methods We conducted an online study of 311 New Zealand smokers aged 18 years and above that comprised a willingness-to-pay task comparing a branded and a standardised pack at four different price levels, and a choice experiment. The latter used an alternative-specific design, where the alternatives were a branded pack or a standardised pack, with warning theme and price varied for each pack.
Results Respondents had higher purchase likelihoods for the branded pack (with a 30% warning) than the standardised pack (with a 75% warning) at each price level tested, and, on average, were willing to pay approximately 5% more for a branded pack. The choice experiment produced a very similar estimate of ‘consumer surplus’ for a branded pack. However, the size of the ‘consumer surplus’ varied between warning themes and by respondents’ demographic characteristics.
Conclusions These two experiments suggest standardised packaging and larger warning labels could have a similar overall effect on adult New Zealand smokers as a 5% tobacco price increase. The findings provide further evidence for the efficacy of standardised packaging, which focuses primarily on reducing youth initiation, and suggest this measure will also bring notable benefits to adult smokers.
- Packaging and Labelling
- Public policy
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