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Adolescent perceptions of cigarette appearance

Allison Ford, Crawford Moodie, Anne M. MacKintosh, Gerard Hastings
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/eurpub/ckt161 464-468 First published online: 24 October 2013

Abstract

Background: To reduce the possibility of cigarette appearance misleading consumers about harm caused by the product, the European Commission’s draft Tobacco Products Directive proposed banning cigarettes <7.5 mm in diameter. It appears however, following a plenary vote in the European Parliament, that this will not be part of the final Tobacco Products Directive. To reduce the appeal of cigarettes, the Australian Government banned the use of branding on cigarettes and stipulated a maximum cigarette length as part of the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act. We explored the role, if any, of cigarette appearance on perceptions of appeal and harm among adolescents. Methods: Focus group research with 15-year-olds (N = 48) was conducted in Glasgow (Scotland) to explore young people’s perceptions of eight cigarettes differing in length, diameter, colour and decorative design. Results: Slim and superslim cigarettes with white filter tips and decorative features were viewed most favourably and rated most attractive across gender and socio-economic groups. The slimmer diameters of these cigarettes communicated weaker tasting and less harmful looking cigarettes. This was closely linked to appeal as thinness implied a more pleasant and palatable smoke for young smokers. A long brown cigarette was viewed as particularly unattractive and communicated a stronger and more harmful product. Conclusion: This exploratory study provides some support that standardising cigarette appearance could reduce the appeal of cigarettes in adolescents and reduce the opportunity for stick design to mislead young smokers in terms of harm.

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