Adopt plain tobacco packaging or face future health epidemic, researcher warns

WATERLOO, ON, May 29, 2013 /CNW/ - Following the Republic of Ireland's announcement on Tuesday that it will adopt plain packaging legislation for tobacco products, University of Waterloo tobacco researcher David Hammond suggests that Canada must follow suit to curb deaths from smoking.

After several decades of steady decline, smoking rates in Canada appear have stalled at almost 5 million smokers. With restrictions already placed on traditional forms of tobacco advertising in Canada, packaging design remains one of the last ways cigarette companies can market their products.

"Cigarette packaging has increased in importance following restrictions on traditional forms of advertising. Without new measures, such as plain packaging, there is no end in sight to the health epidemic from smoking," said Professor Hammond, of the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences.

Increasingly, cigarette companies are targeting youth, especially young women, with packaging design. "These female branded packages use feminine colour schemes and feature descriptors such as superslim slims, and flavour to attract young women—with dangerous success," Professor Hammond said.

Studies published in Tobacco Control and the Journal of Adolescent Health found that female-branded packs were not only thought to taste the best, but also were associated with glamour, slimness and attractiveness. Plain packs, on the other hand, were consistently rated as the least appealing and also the worst tasting.

Young women were significantly less likely to accept a pack of cigarettes when offered a plain pack versus a female-branded pack.

"Marketing in the form of pack branding remains a potent tool for increasing the appeal of tobacco products to young women. Research shows that packaging designed to appeal to young women directly impacts their beliefs and attitudes about cigarettes."

Under Ireland's proposed legislation, cigarette packages will just feature the brand name in plain text and graphic images showing the harmful effects of cigarettes.

Ireland becomes only the second country in the world to adopt this legislation. Australia was the first, with the legislation coming into effect in December 2012. Professor Hammond served as an expert advisor to the Australian government for this law.

Ireland's announcement comes just ahead of the World Health Organization's No Tobacco Day on Friday May 31.

About the University of Waterloo

In just half a century, the University of Waterloo, located at the heart of Canada's technology hub, has become one of Canada's leading comprehensive universities with 35,000 full- and part-time students in undergraduate and graduate programs. Waterloo, as home to the world's largest post-secondary co-operative education program, embraces its connections to the world and encourages enterprising partnerships in learning, research and discovery. In the next decade, the university is committed to building a better future for Canada and the world by championing innovation and collaboration to create solutions relevant to the needs of today and tomorrow. For more information about Waterloo, please visit

SOURCE: University of Waterloo

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Professor Hammond is available for interview.

Media Contact

Nick Manning
University of Waterloo

Attention broadcasters: Waterloo has facilities to provide broadcast quality audio and video feeds with a double-ender studio. Please contact Nick Manning on 519-888-4451 or 226-929-7627 for more information.


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