BAT Disputes Study Claim That Plain Packs Curb Cigarette Appeal

British American Tobacco’s Australian unit has disputed the findings of a cancer charity’s study that plain packaging lowers the appeal of cigarettes and increases the desire to quit.

Australia’s introduction of plain packaging legislation has had “no noticeable impact on legal tobacco sales in the first six months,” BAT Australia spokesman Scott McIntyre said in an e-mailed statement today. “Smokers are still purchasing cigarettes just as they were before it was introduced.”

Australia became the first country to enforce plain tobacco packaging on Dec. 1. All cigarettes in the nation must be sold in uniform packs with the brand name relegated to the bottom quarter of the package on a brown background. The U.K. government this month postponed plans to introduce plain packs, saying it needs more time to assess the effects in Australia.

The study, funded by Cancer Council Victoria, surveyed 536 smokers during the rollout of the plain pack legislation in November, when branded packs were still on sale.

“Our consumer purchasing figures are based on six months’ worth of sales data since plain packs have been the only available cigarettes in the market,” BATA’s McIntyre said.

He didn’t provide sales figures to back the claim.