Smokers may switch to cheaper packs, warns report

13 March 2012

Consumers may switch from buying premium tobacco brands to cheaper products if the Government introduces plain packaging laws in the UK, according to new research.Economic consultancy London Economics launched a new report entitled The role of packaging imagery on consumer preferences for experience goods: A consumer behavioural experiment. The research was funded by tobacco giant Philip Morris International.
London Economics partner Dr. Gavan Conlon said: “Our analysis suggests that packaging imagery is a source of information that helps consumers differentiate between alternative product characteristics. “If consumers can’t differentiate between brands in the market, they opt for cheaper brands, whether it’s beer, cigarettes or almost any other product. “If manufacturers respond by competing on price to maintain market share, prices may decline. In simple economic terms, when prices decline the demand increases and that’s what might occur with the introduction of plain packaging. ”London Economics also reviewed existing research put forward as evidence that plain packaging would reduce smoking rates and found that much of the research relies on statements of intention of what people might do, rather than analysing people’s actual behaviour. “Statements of intention can often be very different from actual outcomes and caution should be exercised in interpreting the results from self reported surveys and focus groups” said research author Dr Charlotte Duke.
The Government will be launching a consultation on plain packaging soon.
Supporters of plain packaging for tobacco products state that plain packaging will deter children and teenagers from taking up smoking. Cancer Research UK director of tobacco control Sarah Woolnough said: “It will give millions of children one less reason to start” (Packaging News, 12 March 2012).