THE Government should consider forcing tobacco companies to make their cigarettes in unappealing colours or print them with health warnings, to reduce their attractiveness to smokers, researchers say.
Researchers at Otago University in New Zealand and colleagues in Australia tested reactions of smokers to cigarettes in unattractive colours, such as yellow-brown and green, or carrying health warnings.
"We found that smokers were significantly less likely to choose the test sticks and found all significantly less appealing than the status quo - a white cigarette with a brown filter tip," says one of the researchers, Professor Janet Hoek, of the university's marketing department.
A "minutes-of-life-lost" graphic that went from one minute near the tip up to 15 near the butt had the strongest aversive effect relative to the other cigarettes tested.
"Requiring cigarette sticks and rolling paper to feature such a graphic, or to be produced in dissuasive colours, would likely increase the impact plain packaging will have on those who smoke, while also deterring others from taking up smoking," Professor Hoek says.
The research, involving an online survey of 313 New Zealand smokers, is published Tobacco Control, a leading international journal.
The Government has introduced legislation to Parliament that would allow tobacco to be sold only in standardised, plain packaging like that now required in Australia.
The Otago University researchers are part of the Aspire2025 group which is devising and testing new policies to help New Zealand achieve the Government's target of having a smoking prevalence of less than 5 per cent by 2025.
The prevalence of adults smoking daily stood at 15 per cent in the Health Ministry's latest data, from its 2014/15 Health Survey
How to make cigarettes less attractive to smokers:
• Make them yellow-brown or green instead of white with a brown butt
• Print a "minutes-of-life-lost" graphic on the cigarette for each section smoked
- Source: Otago University