Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Packaging doesn't make people start smoking - study

This study was published in the European Journal of Public Health a couple of weeks ago. You won't have seen it reported anywhere and no 'public health' campaigners have mentioned it on Twitter, for reasons that will become obvious.

It looks at the factors that influence young people's decisions to start smoking.

Respondents were allowed to select up to three among the following response options: ‘your friends smoked’; ‘your parents smoked’; ‘you liked the packaging of the cigarettes (or other tobacco products)’; ‘you liked the taste or smell of tobacco’; ‘you liked menthol cigarettes’; ‘you liked cigarettes with a specific sweet, fruity or spicy flavour’; and ‘cigarettes were affordable’. Respondents who indicated that they started smoking because their friends smoked were classified as having initiated smoking under the domain of ‘peer influence’ and those who mentioned that they started smoking because their parents smoked were classified as under the domain of ‘parental influence’. All other responses were grouped together as ‘tobacco product features’, as the numbers of respondents who indicated each one as an influence were small.

Small, indeed. In fact...

No significant association between design and marketing features of tobacco products and an early initiation of regular smoking was observed (OR = 1.04; 95%CI 0.83–1.31).

The researchers found "no significant within-group differences were observed for design and marketing features of tobacco products". The results are shown below.

'Tobacco product features' include not only the packaging, but also flavours such as menthol. As any smoker knows—and as this study confirms—these factors simply do not register as a cause for people to start smoking. Nevertheless, the EU is legislating to ban menthol and the UK is legislating for plain packaging.

The reason for that, folks, is that 'public health' is not an evidence-based enterprise.

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