Plain or standardised cigarette packs may deter non-smokers from taking up the habit and may cut the number of cigarettes that smokers get through, a new study has found.

In a collection of papers to the journal Addiction, researchers said that while standardised packs were still too new to provide substantial evidence, studies so far showed they were likely to reduce smoking rates.

Britain plans to become the second country to introduce non-branded, standardised packaging for cigarettes this May, after Australia, which introduced standardised packaging in 2012. The law in Australia forces cigarettes to be sold in plain green packs with health warnings and images showing the damaging effects of smoking.

Researchers found that after Australia made plain packaging mandatory in 2012, smoking in outdoor areas of cafes, bars and restaurants declined and fewer smokers left packs visible on tables. Another study found that removing brand imagery from packs increased the focus on health warnings among occasional smokers and adolescents just starting to smoke.

Robert West, editor in chief of the journal Addiction, believed that the effect of plain packaging on young potential smokers would likely be the more important initial impact. Even if standardized packaging had no effect on current smokers and only stopped one in 20 young people from starting to smoke, it would save about 2,000 lives a year.

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Tobacco firms have fought hard against the plain packaging mandate, saying that standard packs infringe on intellectual property rights covering branding and only increase smuggling and counterfeiting.

However, some experts believe that for an addictive product that kills so many of its users, the tobacco industry should consider itself fortunate that it is allowed to sell its toxic products at all, let alone try to make them attractive through packaging.

Members of Parliament in the United Kingdom are preparing for a vote in March to switch to plain packaging

Extracted in full from International Business Times.