Plain packaging – a psychologists view
Kenneth McKenzie has worked in UCD looking at the psychological mechanisms behind maladaptive decisions in health behaviours. Does he think plain packaging will work?
15 November 2013
"I think it is too early to tell. The answer lies somewhere in the middle. Packaging and associations build up over a very long period of time. So while it may make packaging less attractive to six year olds, over time, it’s not going to do anything to people when they are 22. If you are addicted then packaging is irrelevant. Addicts will rob to get hold of drugs so plain packaging won’t stop smokers. However, I think the amount of career smokers will drop in western countries over the next 20 years, not by a lot but a small bit."
Packaging is part of a marketing mix that makes the product stand out and makes it eye catching and perhaps builds up unconscious associations in people’s heads, but that’s just part of it. What you will find is a lot of those that start smoking do so for rebellious reasons. There is a case for more education but, because it is bad, most kids will try it. It’s a taboo and once you put a taboo on something you make it desirable. If it wasn’t on this it would be on other forms of drug usage – non illicit drug usage. No one advertises drugs but they are growing as a problem. People do things they shouldn’t and that is human history."