Does Packaging Affect Taste?

Scott McIntyre, a spokesman for British American Tobacco, dismissed concerns about flavor. “It’s the same tobacco, being made in the same way, in the same Australian factories by the same people as it always has been made for a very long time,” he said in an interview at the company’s headquarters here.

The new restrictions have had no effect on tobacco sales, he said, but he declined to provide any numbers, citing confidentiality.

In Australia, cigarettes are heavily taxed ($14.70 a pack) and a law was passed six months ago requiring graphic images and warnings to be placed on packaging. According to the Times, almost immediately after the graphic images were put on tobacco products, smokers complained that the cigarettes tasted off. A few theories emerged: 1) That the graphic images created a psychological effect that made cigarettes taste bad so people wouldn’t buy them anymore, which is what anti-smoking advocates are hoping, and 2) To make up for declining sales due to high taxes and the new rules governing tobacco, cigarette companies are sourcing their tobacco someplace where they can get it for cheaper.

Which is it? There is no evidence for number two, but Simon Chapman, a professor of public health at the University of Sydney said that “packaging really does cue taste.”

Photo: Newtown Graffiti

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