Does Plain Vape Packaging Reduce The Big Appeal?

illicit disposable vapes

In May 2017, a new ruling was passed which meant that all packaging of Cigarettes and pouches of loose leaf hand rolling Tobacco was to be changed to a plain grey/black design, eliminating any colourful designs on the pouches or packets that previously had been seen marketed.

This was done in a bid to make the packaging of these tobacco related items as less attractive to younger audiences as possible, and dull it right down to a generic colour to try and combat the problems of smoking rates amongst youths from increasing.

Fast forward to current day, and we are now in a similar situation, just with E-Cigarettes..most notably the packaging designs of Disposable Vapes. Which are at the forefront of all of the problems arising within the vaping world due to these devices being colourful in design and appealing to youths who are not of legal smoking age.

Recently, a survey was conducted between a large group of 11-18 year olds as well as Over 18’s looking at how the packaging of vape devices would appeal to these age demographics. And in this article, I take a look at the results of this survey and break it down, giving my thoughts on the results, and whether or not the dulling down of packaging could result in less usage of these devices amongst underage users. Let’s get into it!

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The JAMA investigates

The Journal of the American Medical Association recently published their findings from taking a look into a survey conducted in 2021 by Action on Smoking and Health which posed the questions about whether or not the packaging of E-Cigarettes appeal to both younger audiences to encourage them to want to use them, as well as asking a more mature audience over the legal smoking age the same questions.

The key point they wanted to establish and I quote;

“To find out whether or not there was association between standardized e-cigarette packaging and interest in trying e-cigarette products among samples of youths and adults in Great Britain.”

In 2022, 8.3% of the adult population in Great Britain reported themselves to be active users of E-Cigarettes. And on the other side of the coin, 7% of youths aged between 11-18 years old also considered themselves to be users of E-Cigarettes also. What is worth noting here, is that while the number may seem high, the term “user” covers all aspects of E-Cigarette use, whether it be frequently or infrequently so bare that in mind.

There’s absolutely no denying that packaging of anything consumable appeals to an audience, whether it be confectionary, drinks, or even E-Cigarettes which is what we are focusing on for the basis of this article. And across time, some big brands of E-Cigarettes have come under fire for their packaging designs and marketing techniques to make their products appealing to audiences, whether it be adults or young people who may not be of legal smoking/vaping age, and many anti-vaping campaigners have made calls for these exploits to be stopped in their tracks.

As mentioned, the dulling down of Tobacco product packaging has had a positive impact, with the amount of youth smokers being relatively lower now than it was pre 2016, which obviously shows that the plan has worked how the Government expected it to. But would this same action being imposed on the packaging for E-Cigarettes have the same effect? The surveys takes a deep dive into this topic…

ASH Survey Results

The JAMA Network collected data from two separate surveys both conducted by Action on Smoking and Health. They looked at the ASH Youth Survey, conducted online in 2021 online where the people surveyed were between 11-18 year olds. As well as looking at the data from the online survey taken in similar vein but this time between adults aged over 18 years old.

Within this survey’s, ASH conducted an experiment where the individuals were assigned a set of the same 3 brands of E-Cigarette starter kits which featured a device and vape cartridges. 2 of which were pod devices and the third device was a tank device so a little bit different from the other two.

The packaging of these products differed in the way of one was fully branded (controlled and in line with all regulations) one was white standardized packaging, and the final was green standardised packaging.

The green colour used was the same shade of olive-green that reflected the current standardised packaging requirements for tobacco and cigarettes packs in Great Britain. And the brands of the products used were the most popular and highest sold brands in Great Britain at the time of this survey being conducted (SMOK, JUUL & VYPE)

color vape packaging
white vape packaging
green vape packaging

The questions were asked to both sets of candidates to which product they would “most likely be interested in” out of the three vape packaging options, and the options of “none and not interested” were also given as options that could be chosen.

Under 18’s Survey

Looking at the survey results of the Under 18’s first, and the results make for some interesting reading. They are as follows;

  • 943 (38.2%) stated that people their age would be interested in trying any of the vape products in the packaging images regardless of the packaging.
  • 794 (32.2%) responded that people their age would have no interest in any of the vape products.
  • 732 (29.65) reported that they did not know which vape products their age group would be most interested in.

And moving into the colours and designs of the packaging, interestingly enough, the Green packaging used on tobacco and cigarette packaging seemed the least popular with 292 out of 815 (35.8%) saying they believe that people their age would not be interested in this product. I find it interesting because it’s the same colour as what’s now associated with cigarettes and tobacco, and prevalence has seen a decrease since the introduction of that colour.

Coming in second with 264 out of 826 (32%) was the White packaging and, coming as no surprise to myself, the most popular at 238 out of 828 (28.7%) was the branded packaging featuring colours and images of the devices.

A high volume of those surveyed also expressed uncertainty on whether or not people in their age bracket would be interested at all in these regardless of the packaging, with 230-250 of those surveyed saying they don’t know across the three different styles of packaging.

Essentially, less people were put off using these products by looking at the standard coloured packaging with images than they were of the plain and dulled down packaging.

Adult Survey

Moving to the survey results of the Adults, the amount of adults asked was considerably higher than the Under 18’s asked so these number volumes are quite high compared to the Under 18’s so bare that in mind when reading.

  • 947 (7.9%) reported they were interested in trying vape products from any of the packaging images.
  • 10,563 (87.7%) had no interest in trying any of the products.
  • 536 (4.4%) did not know if they would be interested.

Those who would not be interested at all sat at 3050 out of 4040 (86.8%) for the Green packaging, 3532 out of 4006 (88.2%) for the White packaging and 3526 out of 4000 (88.1%) for the standard branded packaging.

Which basically means that Under 18’s appear to be more heavily affected by packaging style and seem to be put off by the prospect of dulled down packaging where as the Over 18’s don’t seem to really be phased by packaging, with the Green coloured packaging actually seeming to be more popular which comes as a surprise.

JAMA Network goes on to conclude their study with the following statement

“The findings of this survey study suggest that reducing brand imagery through standardized e-cigarette packaging is associated with decreased appeal of e-cigarette products among youths, specifically never smokers and never vapers, without reducing its appeal among adult smokers. Overall, our findings lend support for reducing brand imagery on e-cigarette products in Great Britain”

And there we have it folks, the conclusion has been reached which was inevitable and that is reducing brand imagery across E-Cigarette brands could likely be the key to decreasing the numbers of youths picking up E-Cigarettes to use. So…what should happen next?


Packaging restrictions should happen sooner rather than later

As I mentioned at the start of this article, there has been countless amounts of calls to action made by anti-vaping campaigners, but also from vaping groups as well as Members of Parliament aimed at the Government encouraging them to bring in some form of regulation and restrictions on the packaging of E-Cigarettes to stop them being so enticing to underage users.

This has been significantly heightened in recent times down to the fact that Disposable Vapes have become so popular, and seen a rise in usage amongst 11-18 year olds of more than 45% from 2021 to 2022 which is staggering really. I’ve mentioned in previous articles about Disposables that dulling down the packaging would be the first port of call to combat these youth vaping numbers from increasing, and not doing something harsh like banning Disposables completely.

Irresponsible packaging and promotions also need to stop as does copycat tactics using the designs and brand names of popular drinks or sweets brands to promote E-Cigarettes is just so mindless and brings even more unwanted flack and attention to the Vaping Industry that really isn’t needed as there’s enough dark clouds hanging over the industry with everything else going on with Disposables.

I’ll be interested to see if anything is done in the near future regarding the packaging designs of Disposable Vapes, and I remain confident that something will be done and the youth vaping numbers will start to decrease naturally, without the need for any serious regulations or banning of devices which could harm adult users of these devices.