Tobacco Info

From Tobacco Info No. 6 - July 2011
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Study review by the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit

The Ontario Tobacco Research Unit (OTRU) is a research network that is recognized as a Canadian leader in tobacco control research, monitoring and evaluation. Browse Current Abstracts on Tobacco Control, a monthly list of selected journal articles and reports on tobacco topics, with an emphasis on Canadian authors and research, or visit our online library catalogue to search thousands of citations related to smoking and tobacco at

Pack design and gender

David Hammond, in a review in Tobacco Control, found that the pack is one of the most direct ways to appeal to smokers and to provide warnings. Of 94 original articles reviewed, Hammond concluded that the evidence indicated that the impact of health warnings depends upon their size and design, and that pictorial health warnings that elicit strong emotional reactions are significantly more effective. Doxey and Hammond, published in Tobacco Control, also found that the cigarettes themselves can provide message signals.  Slim cigarettes were more likely to be considered ‘female cigarettes.’ In an experimental study, fully-branded female packs were rated as significantly more appealing than ‘no descriptor’ packs, ‘plain’ packs and non-female branded packs. Female branded packs were associated with a greater number of positive attributes including glamour, slimness and attractiveness, compared to brands without descriptors and plain packs. The authors argue that plain packaging reduces brand appeal among both genders. 

The relationship between gender empowerment and the female-to-male smoking prevalence was explored by Sarah Hitchman and Geoff Fong of the University of Waterloo. The study, reported in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, found that the higher the level of gender empowerment, the higher the ratio of female-to-male smoking in a country. This effect was stronger after controlling for gross national income and income inequality.

Cigarette litter

A special supplement of the journal Tobacco Control grapples with the issue of the environmental impact of cigarettes. Moerman and Potts demonstrate the presence of heavy metals left behind when cigarette butts are soaked in water, while an experiment described by Slaughter shows a single cigarette butt in a laboratory environment is toxic enough to kill fish. Smith and Novotny reveal the tobacco industry’s long-standing concern about the cigarette butt problem and how it has responded by shifting responsibility for the job of cleanup back to its victims.

Tobacco and cannabis

A Swiss study, in Nicotine and Tobacco Research, found that the practice of adding tobacco to cannabis or ‘mulling’ was frequent among adolescent cannabis users. While 90% of daily cigarette smokers would mix cannabis and tobacco, a majority of cigarette abstainers also reported frequently adding tobacco to the cannabis they smoke. Researchers analyzed data from 881 past month cannabis users with an average age of 15 years from the 2007 European School Survey Project on Alcohol and other Drugs. Mixing tobacco with cannabis may represent a significant source of nicotine among youth. 


Ryan Kennedy and colleagues, in Optometry and Vision Science, conducted a pilot study to understand optometrists’ attitudes toward addressing tobacco use. Many optometrists were aware of the increased risk of developing certain eye diseases, but few assessed the smoking status of their patients and none had ever supported smoking cessation. They conclude that optometrists should be integrated into the smoking healthcare network that includes medicine, nursing, pharmacy and other health professions. Kennedy et al. also published in Optometry, show that a low proportion of smokers from Canada (13%) compared to 47.2% of Australian smokers believed that smoking causes blindness. Australia was the only country during the sampling period to have national awareness campaigns about smoking and its effects on eye health.


In Addictive Behaviors, Weinberger, George and McKee found that smokers with a history of major depression were more likely to believe that smoking had beneficial effects. The authors analyzed data from a population of smokers enrolled in a clinical trial and compared smoking expectancies of groups of smokers who had a history of depression with those who had no history of depression. Smokers with depression were more likely to say that smoking reduces negative effects, boredom and cravings; smoking increases stimulation and social facilitation; smoking helps to manage cravings and weight; and that the taste is enjoyable.

By Michael Chaiton