Moves to impose plain packaging for cigarettes, including Australia's 2012 legislation on standardised packaging and the recent UK commitment to do the same, have been strongly influenced by Olivia Maynard's research into tobacco packaging.

Impacts

  • In December 2012 Australia became the first country in the world to implement plain packaging legislation, after reviewing Ms Maynard's research in the High Court in response to legal challenges from the tobacco industry.
  • In April 2014, the UK government announced that plain packaging would be introduced in England, following the publication of a review citing Ms Maynard's research.
  • The European Commission's 2012 update of the Tobacco Products Directive cites Ms Maynard's research to support the claim that plain packaging strengthens the effectiveness of health warnings.
  • The research has also been presented to UK policymakers including the Tobacco Policy Team within the Department of Health, the Cabinet Office Behavioural Insights Team and a Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology workshop.

"Olivia Maynard's research is a key element in the jigsaw of evidence which was examined by Sir Cyril Chantler, and has helped ensure that the Government made the right decision to go ahead with getting rid of brightly coloured branding on tobacco packs." (Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of Action and Smoking and Health (ASH))

About the research

Only four years into her research career, Olivia Maynard of the University of Bristol has already attracted international attention for her research into tobacco packaging, from policymakers, anti-smoking lobby groups and the tobacco industry.

Her study of how plain, standardised packaging impacts on people's attention to tobacco health warnings is a key part of a growing body of evidence underpinning recent reviews and changes to legislation.

During her ESRC-funded PhD research, Ms Maynard used eye-tracking technology to measure the eye movements of adults and adolescents when viewing branded and plain cigarette packs. "We found that for non-established smokers and non-smokers, plain packaging increases visual attention towards health warnings and away from branding," she explains. Her study, the first to use objective behavioural measures to investigate the behavioural impact of plain packaging, suggests that it could be an effective means of tobacco control.

Her research was used most recently by Sir Cyril Chantler, who conducted an independent review of existing research on plain packaging. Based on the review findings, the UK government announced in April 2014 that they would introduce plain packaging in England. The research conducted by Ms Maynard had previously contributed to the Australian Government's decision in December 2012 to implement plain packaging.

"Our research addresses only one aspect of plain packaging – its effect on attention to health warnings," Olivia Maynard explains. "But even so, we have provided robust evidence that helps counter tobacco industry claims that there is no credible evidence or research supporting the introduction of plain packaging. Our evidence has informed policy debate in the UK, Australia and other countries worldwide."