SMOKERS pay more attention to health warnings in they are on plain packaging rather than branded packs of cigarettes, a study has found.

The UK was only the third country in the world, after Australia and France, to introduce standardised cigarette packs in May 2017.

The khaki green cartons bear graphic health warnings such as diseased organs to deter would-be smokers and encourage others to kick the habit.

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Colourful branded packs - which also carried health warnings - were phased out by manufacturers over the previous 12 month period, before being fully banned.

Now, researchers from Stirling University have revealed the results of a study to find out what impact health warnings had on the different styles of packaging.

Experts at the Institute of Social Marketing surveyed 1865 current smokers between February and April 2017, when both standardised and fully-branded packs were still on the market.

The team found that smokers using standardised packs were more likely to have noticed the warnings ‘often’ or ‘very often’, compared to those who had never used standardised packs.

This group also read warnings closely ‘often’ or ‘very often’, and were also more likely to have noticed a stop-smoking website on packs.

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Warnings used on standardised packs were larger than those on fully-branded packs and displayed images on both the front and back, instead of just the reverse. Researchers said this could explain why the standardised packs had more impact.

Dr Crawford Moodie led the study, funded by Cancer Research UK, said: “We found that UK smokers currently using standardised packs were more likely, than those who had never used standardised packs, to have noticed and read, or looked closely at, the health warnings; thought about the risks; and thought about quitting due to the look of the pack.

“They were also more likely to report awareness of a stop-smoking website and cite warnings on packs of cigarettes or rolling tobacco as a source of awareness.”

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The initiative was opposed by tobacco giants, who argued that it would increase black market trade in cigarettes and that it was illegal for governments to deprive manufacturers of their trademarks.

However, their long-running legal challenge was ultimately ended when the UK Supreme court refused them permission to appeal against an earlier ruling that the policy was legal.

George Butterworth, Cancer Research UK’s senior policy manager, said: “This study adds to the growing body of evidence that standardised packaging reduces the appeal of tobacco products.

“It’s important to evaluate the impact of this so other countries can follow the UK’s lead and protect future generations from the harm of tobacco.”

The paper is published in the journal, Addiction Research and Theory.