The introduction of standardised tobacco packaging could save as many as 2000 lives a year, according to a summary of research published in the journal Addiction.
The analysis suggests that if one in 20 people are prevented from taking up smoking each year as a result of plain packaging, several thousand deaths linked to smoking for prevention. Professor Robert West, a tobacco control expert and editor of Addiction, said: 'All the pieces are building the same picture, which is that it is going to have a reduction. None of the studies are pointing in the other direction. Even if it only prevented one in 20 young people from starting, and had absolutely no effect at all on existing smokers, it would still end up saving 2000 lives a year. That's a testimony to how dangerous smoking is.'
The analysis examined several studies related to smoking prevention, including research into Australia's plain packaging policy and UK studies into the effects of advertising on smokers. Some these studies found that plain packaging reduced the urge to smoke, even in current smokers; removing branding draws more attention to health warnings in occasional smokers; and that standardised packs are more effective than larger health warnings in discouraging smoking.
George Butterworth, Cancer Research UK's tobacco policy manager, said: 'When we began campaigning for plain, standardised tobacco packaging three years ago, the evidence was clear. Packaging clearly influences how smokers and non-smokers, adults and children think about cigarettes. 'These latest studies add further weight to the considerable body of evidence around the impact of standard packs.'
The government has recently announced proposals to vote on plain packaging in the UK, which would lead to mandatory colours for packaging (brown on the outside, white on the interior), and permitting only the brand and variant name to be written on the package. The government intends to have legislated these proposals by May 2016, in line with the introduction of the European Tobacco Products Directive.