Posted by Anne Landman on July 29, 2009

As more routes of advertising get closed off to cigarette makers, cigarette pack designs are taking on greater importance as marketing tools -- and carrying more meaning for smokers. That's why cigarette pack designs were the subject of a recent Canadian survey, where 603 smoking and non-smoking adults were asked to compare and rate a variety of fictitious cigarette packages. Participants were asked to choose the packs they believed would would carry lower health risks, deliver more tar, or taste smoother. Eighty percent of participants believed packages labeled with the word "smooth" would be less hazardous than the ones labeled "regular." Most of them believed the cigarettes in a lighter-colored box would have lower health risk than those in a darker one. Seventy five percent thought that if the box had a picture of a filter on it, the cigarettes inside would be less hazardous. Cigarette companies say the phrasing on the pack simply describes the taste of the product inside, but David Hammond, a professor of health studies at the University of Waterloo, says consumers use wording on the pack as an indicator of risk. Based on the study's findings, researchers are urging the Canadian government to require standardized packaging for all cigarette brands. The World Health Organization's Global Tobacco Treaty also urges the 166 signatory countries to consider mandating plain packaging for cigarettes.