Skip to main content
Intended for healthcare professionals
Restricted access
Research article
First published online August 1, 2011

Young Adult Smokers’ Perceptions of Cigarette Pack Innovation, Pack Colour and Plain Packaging


In jurisdictions where most forms of marketing tobacco are prohibited by law, such as the United Kingdom (UK), the tobacco industry is increasingly turning to innovative packaging to promote their products. Using focus group research we explored perceptions of packaging innovation (including cigarette packs with novel shapes and method of opening), and also plain packaging (all branding removed), among 54 young adult smokers aged 18–35 years, recruited in Glasgow, Scotland. We also examined smokers’ perceptions of pack and plain pack colour. It was found that packs with novel methods of opening, for instance, like a lighter or book, were considered to have a negligible impact upon brand selection, particularly among males. However, a small, narrow ‘perfume’ type pack created enormous interest among females and was perceived very favourably, being considered a fashion accessory and indeed one that helped minimise the health risks of smoking. Coloured plain packs (white, green, light blue, red) without a brand name, any brand descriptors or tar or nicotine levels, were identified by almost all smokers as signalling product strength. Consistent with past research the removal of branding from packs reduced the attractiveness and promotional appeal of the pack, with dark brown ‘plain’ packs perceived as more unappealing than light brown and dark and light grey packs by all groups. Dark brown non-branded packaging for tobacco products would help reduce the promotional appeal of the pack and ensure that pack colour does not provide consumers with false comfort about the health risks of smoking.

Get full access to this article

View all access and purchase options for this article.


Brown A., Moodie C., in press. Adolescent perceptions of tobacco control measures in the UK. Health Promotion Practice.
Colquhoun Associates (1998). Qualitative research into RYO habits and attitudes. <> (accessed 15 December 2010).
Doxey J. Deadly in pink: the impact of female-oriented cigarette packaging on brand appeal, beliefs about smoking, and risk perceptions among young women 2009 Department of Health Studies, University of Waterloo Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
Euromonitor International, 2008. Tobacco in Russia. <> (accessed 15 December 2010).
Freeman B. Chapman S. Rimmer M. The case for the plain packaging of tobacco products Addiction 1032008 580–590
Gallopel-Morvan K. Moodie C. Rey Pino J.M. Demarketing cigarettes through plain cigarette packaging 2010 Colloque de l'Association Française du Marketing Le Mans
Hammond D. Parkinson C. The impact of cigarette package design on perceptions of risk Journal of Public Health 312009 345–353
Hammond D. Dockrell M. Arnott D. Lee A. McNeill A. The impact of cigarette pack design on perceptions of risk among UK adult and youth: evidence in support of plain packaging regulations European Journal of Public Health 192009 631–637
Hammond D. Tobacco packaging and labelling: a review of the evidence 2008 Department of Health Studies, University of Waterloo Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
Haslam Drury Partnership, 1998. Gallaher Ltd: Silk Cut packaging development qualitative debrief, 1998. <> (accessed 18 December 2010).
Hawkes C. Food packaging: the medium is the message Public Health Nutrition 132010 297–299
Heatherton T.F. Kozlowski L.T. Frecker R.C. Rickert W. Robinson J. Measuring the Heaviness of Smoking: using self-reported time to the first cigarette of the day and number of cigarettes smoked per day British Journal of Addiction 841989 791–800
Heatherton T.F. Kozlowski L.T. Frecker R.C. Fagerström K.-O. The Fagerström test for nicotine dependence. A revision of the Fagerström tolerance questionnaire British Journal of Addiction 841991 791–800
Japan Tobacco International (JTI), 2008. Response to the UK Department of Health's consultation on the future of tobacco control. <> (accessed 15 December 2010).
Keller K.L. Strategic Brand Management. Building, Measuring and Managing Brand Equity 3rd ed. 2008 Pearson New Jersey
Leading Edge, 1997. American blends NPD. Qualitative debrief presentation. <> (accessed 15 December 2010).
M&C Saatchi, 1998. Sovereign and the cheap cigarette market. Qualitative research debrief. <> (accessed 15 December 2010).
Moodie C. Hastings G.B. Tobacco packaging as promotion Tobacco Control 192010 168–170
Moodie C. Hastings G.B. Making the pack the hero, tobacco industry response to marketing restrictions in the UK: findings from a long-term audit International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction 9 2011 24
Moodie C. Hastings G. Ford A. A brief review of plain packaging research for tobacco products. Report prepared for the Department of Health 2009 Centre for Tobacco Control Research: University of Stirling Stirling
Neumark-Sztainer D. Story M. Perry C. Casey M.A. Factors influencing food choices of adolescents: findings from focus-group discussions with adolescents Journal of American Dietetic Association 991999 929–937
NHS Information Centre Statistics on Smoking: England, 2009 2009 The Information Centre, NHS London
Non-Smokers Rights Association, 2009. The marketing of tobacco products in Canada: Increased advertising in 2008/09. A report from the Non-Smokers’ Rights Association and Smoking and Health Action Foundation. <> (accessed 5 January 2011).
O'Kell E., 2007. The Anglo-American ‘Tobacco wars’ and the use of the classics to establish a global company. New Voices in Classical Reception Studies, 2. <> (accessed 15 March 2010).
Office for National Statistics (ONS), 2011. Smoking and Drinking Among Adults, 2009. Office for National Statistics, Newport.
Peace J. Wilson N. Hoek J. Edwards R. Thomson G. Survey of descriptors on cigarette packs: still misleading consumers? Journal of the New Zealand Medical Association 1222009 90–96
Philip Morris, 1990. Marketing new products in a restrictive environment. Philip Morris international meeting, Naples, Florida, June 1990. Bates No: 2044762173-2364. <> (accessed 15 June 2009).
Prendergast G.P. Marr N.E. Generic products: Who buys them and how do they perform relative to each other European Journal of Marketing 311995 94–109
Recker K. Kathman J. The role of consumer research in the brand design process Design Management Journal 122001 70–75
Robinson T.N. Borzekowski D.L.G. Matheson D.M. Kraemer H.C. Effects of food branding on young children's taste preferences Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine 1612007 792–797
Sara R. Packaging as a retail marketing tool International Journal of Physical Distribution and Logistics Management 201990 29–30
Scheffels J. A difference that makes a difference. Young adult smokers’ accounts of cigarette brands and packaging Tobacco Control 172008 118–122
The Research Business, 1996. Qualitative research into the UK potential for Marlboro Medium. <> (accessed 15 December 2010).
Tobacco Journal International, 2010. Packaging, the last chance marketing saloon. Tobacco Journal International, 4 March.
Wakefield M. Morley C. Horan J.K. Cummings K.M. The cigarette pack as image: new evidence from tobacco industry documents Tobacco Control 112002 73–80
Wilson N. Weerasekera D. Jo Peace P. Edwards R. Thomson G. Devlin M. Misperceptions of “light” cigarettes abound: national survey data BMC Public Health 9 2009 126

Cite article

Cite article

Cite article


Download to reference manager

If you have citation software installed, you can download article citation data to the citation manager of your choice

Share options


Share this article

Share with email

Share access to this article

Sharing links are not relevant where the article is open access and not available if you do not have a subscription.

For more information view the Sage Journals article sharing page.

Information, rights and permissions


Published In

Article first published online: August 1, 2011
Issue published: August 2011


  1. Cigarette packaging
  2. Pack colour
  3. Pack innovation
  4. Plain packaging

Rights and permissions

© 2011 Australian and New Zealand Marketing Academy.
Request permissions for this article.


Published online: August 1, 2011
Issue published: August 2011



Crawford Moodie
Institute for Social Marketing, University of Stirling, Stirlingshire FK9 4LA, Scotland, UK
Allison Ford
Institute for Social Marketing, University of Stirling, Stirlingshire FK9 4LA, Scotland, UK


Tel.: +44 1 01786 466456; fax: +44 1 01786 463535. [email protected]

Metrics and citations


Journals metrics

This article was published in Australasian Marketing Journal.


Article usage*

Total views and downloads: 141

*Article usage tracking started in December 2016

Articles citing this one

Web of Science: 0

Crossref: 3

  1. Ageism Kills Brands
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  2. The cigarette box as an advertising vehicle in the United Kingdom: A c...
    Go to citation Crossref Google ScholarPub Med
  3. Special Section on Marketing and Public Policy: Going beyond a Nanny S...
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar

Figures and tables

Figures & Media


View Options

Get access

Access options

If you have access to journal content via a personal subscription, university, library, employer or society, select from the options below:

Alternatively, view purchase options below:

Access journal content via a DeepDyve subscription or find out more about this option.

View options


View PDF/ePub

Full Text

View Full Text