by Tadikamalla Vivek

IN A recent parliamentary debate, Mr Leon Perera (Non-Constituency Member) and Mr Amrin Amin (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health) mentioned the possibility of implementing plain packaging in Singapore. Plain packaging extensively limits the branding and design on cigarette boxes to reduce their appeal. Such measures are not new; Australia and the United Kingdom are only two of the many countries who are seriously considering or have already implemented plain packaging laws.

Would this move be effective to reduce smoking rates in Singapore? We asked some previous and existing young smokers how they would respond to two different scenarios and here’s what they said:

An example of plain packaging in Canada, May 31, 2016. (Photo from REUTERS/Chris Wattie)

Scenario 1:  Let us imagine that you have not started smoking yet, and the cigarette boxes available in shops are currently plain packaged. Do you think it would have affected your choice of picking up smoking?

Scenario 2: Let us say the plain packaging  of cigarette boxes were to become a reality in Singapore next year. Would that affect your choice of continuing to smoke?

Lin Wan Qi, 18, Student

Would it have affected your choice of continuing to smoke?

“No, the packaging doesn’t matter, honestly. The price matters a lot though.(laughs)”

Would you quit?

“It doesn’t even make a difference to me.”

Muhd Azaan bin Muhd Aziz, 19, Student

Would it have affected your choice of continuing to smoke?

“Don’t think so. Technically ah, your friends are smokers, you tend to be influenced by them.”

Would you quit?

“Tried to stop smoking before. If it is going to change, it doesn’t really bother that much. It’s not really effective.”

Muhd Shafiq, 22, Student

Would it have affected your choice of continuing to smoke?

“No, won’t affect because I feel that cigarette will still taste the same even if the box changes.”

Would you quit?

“Won’t affect me. As smokers we already know what brand we want and get used to it already.”

Suhailah Nur Ihani, 18, Student

Would it have affected your choice of continuing to smoke?

“Yes, I would have still started. The packaging doesn’t affect anything. I only care about the cigarette.”

Would you quit?

“No, I will continue. We see the pictures now and we still don’t stop.”

Chee Jun Khai, Davis, 22, Student

Would it have affected your choice of continuing to smoke?

“Don’t think so. I will still start. It’s just a packaging what. Even with the current one people can just buy a case and put it inside.”

Would you quit?

“Will still continue lah. Cos the plain packaging thing put all the harmful effects and all that stuff. The current packaging still have so like no difference.”

Muhd Aliff bin Muhd Ali, 21, Student

Would it have affected your choice of continuing to smoke?

“No. It’s not about the packaging.”

Would you quit?

“Not really. Don’t really look at the packaging when I buy.”

Kimberly Lin, 18, Student

Would it have affected your choice of continuing to smoke?

“No, its the taste of the cigarette that matters. Not the packaging.”

Would you quit?

“Nope. Because I am not a quitter.”

Hakim Rahman, 21, Student

Would it have affected your choice of continuing to smoke?

“No, when you took the cigarette to start one stick ah, your friends give you the one stick so the packaging doesn’t matter.”

Would you quit?

“No, because we are already addicted to smoking. It’s hard to stop and the aesthetic makes no difference.”

Joel Kee, 20, Student

Would it have affected your choice of continuing to smoke?

“I mean, no for me. I think smokers start at basketball courts and places where smokers gather. The packaging is not the problem. It’s the first stick we get, that’s how we start. It’s more of the product.”

Would you quit?

“It’s been a while since I started smoking. It wouldn’t affect me now. It may be more effective with the younger smokers as you don’t know what it is. They either stick with the one they are currently smoking or drop smoking. You get bored of the same flavour after a while.”

Harris Andry, 19, Student

Would it have affected your choice of continuing to smoke?

“Probably not, mostly its about my peers I guess. That’s why people start smoking.”

Would you quit?

“Probably not. It’s more about peers. Maybe this will be more effective for upcoming potential smokers.”

Syafiqah Farhan, 21, Student

Would it have affected your choice of continuing to smoke?

“No, its just the packaging only what. The cigarette is still the same.”

Would you quit?

“No, I think the addiction will make you smoke again. The packaging won’t affect me.”

Ahmad Nabil bin Abdullah, 20, Student

Would it have affected your choice of continuing to smoke?

“I wouldn’t want to buy it. Firstly, it is unappealing in colour. Basically, its just colour. That’s the first thing that comes to my mind.”

Would you quit?

“Actually, I will continue smoking. I smoke because of the taste not how appealing it looks.”

Josephine Sukainah, 21, Student

Would it have affected your choice of continuing to smoke?

“When I was younger, yes. You know the colour looks appealing. The colour does matter (pause) a little bit.”

Would you quit?

“I smoke for a few years already. Essentially, I know what I want to buy.”

Muhd Nur Aqif bin Raman, 21, Student

Would it have affected your choice of continuing to smoke?

“Yes. Cos everything looks plain and not appetising. My first cigarette box I bought was because the colour very nice.”

Would you quit?

“I will still smoke if the brand I like is still there. Safer to keep from my parents also.”

Muhd Arifin, 20, Student

Would it have affected your choice of continuing to smoke?

“No, I don’t think so. I started not because of the box but because of peer influence.”

Would you quit?

“No, because I have been smoking for a while so it is a habit. The appearance won’t affect anything because I know what brand I smoke and what it’ll taste like.”

Khairul Anwar, 22, Student

Would it have affected your choice of continuing to smoke?

“I will still smoke. I guess it depends on mood whether you will pick it up.”

Would you quit?

“I won’t stop. Might be more effective for the younger smokers.”

Akin Rusy Aidi, 20, Student

Would it have affected your choice of continuing to smoke?

“Yes. I would have picked it up. I pick up from the stick my friend pass me, not from the box. Don’t want us to smoke then don’t sell lah(laughs).”

Would you quit?

“No effect. As long as it is the same brand, can already.”

Muhd Aminin bin Amzah, 18, Student

Would it have affected your choice of continuing to smoke?

“I may not start, because it is not appealing. If Im starting I won’t because of this.”

Would you quit?

“Not really. I already know what I like. If you know, you don’t care about packaging.”

Danish Nezran, 19, Student

Would it have affected your choice of continuing to smoke?

“I don’t think so lah. We smoke because of the cigarette not the box.”

Would you quit?

“No, as long as the cigarette can smoke, can already.”

Muhd Arif bin Salam, 21, Student

Would it have affected your choice of continuing to smoke?

“Of course, like that box not really appealing. I may not have bought.”

Would you quit?

“No, I think may have some effect. The box like very ugly but I won’t stop smoking.”

Edmund Tan, 18, Student

Would it have affected your choice of continuing to smoke?

“Yea, I think so. The images is not so flashing. It doesn’t really catch our attention so people won’t know what is inside. So people may not buy.”

Would you quit?

“Not really. It’s harder to quit right now. I’m already familiarised with the cigarette names and it is easier for me as compared to maybe non-smokers.”

Ridhwan Jumadi, 19, Student

Would it have affected your choice of continuing to smoke?

“For me no. I always stick to one box and we already have the choice because I can just change the cigarette I have with my friends. As long as the interior doesn’t change the exterior doesn’t matter.”

Would you quit?

“Will still continue smoking. The box doesn’t really play a part. It’s the feeling that matters.”

Sophia Sabilla Juliana, 18, Student

Would it have affected your choice of continuing to smoke?

“No, I don’t mind. Here for the cigarette, bro.”

Would you quit?

“No, I don’t really care as long as there is the same 20 cigarettes inside. I don’t mind more. (laughs)”

Haziq Shahrin, 21, Student

Would it have affected your choice of continuing to smoke?

“No for me. I started smoking because of friends. They influenced me. It was given to me so how the box looks doesn’t matter.”

Would you quit?

“For me is a no. I started smoking because of friends. The box doesn’t matter to me because I will just continue.”

Muhd Shafiz, 22, Student

Would it have affected your choice of continuing to smoke?

“No, because to be honest when we started smoking, the side effects take years to get. That’s what I thought. So as a first time smoker you take the first puff, it’s just trying until when you get hooked by it. So the box doesn’t matter.”

Would you quit?

“I quit already but if I haven’t quit, it will only be be effective for people who change brand. But in terms of colours, it really doesn’t matter because at the end of the day it is just the box.”

Tristen Tan, 22, Student

Would it have affected your choice of continuing to smoke?

“Difficult to say because I am a smoker. Being objective, I would say no. It will not affect my decision. Smoking, you start because of peer pressure. Not really because of the packaging. Even if the cigarette is in the box, if you are curious you will surely still buy a pack.”

Would you quit?

“No definitely not. In Australia itself there are a lot of smokers and they are sold in plain packaging there. I don’t think it makes a difference. It’s a choice. You smoke not because of packaging, because it’s a choice. For me, it is a way to relieve stress.”

Muhd Nur Isham, 22, Student

Would it have affected your choice of continuing to smoke?

“No, depends on preference. I don’t think a plain box is going to affect my choice when I started smoking. We actually smoke a lot of different variety, so the colour of the box doesn’t play a major role.”

Would you quit?

“It will only work in terms of changing the price. It won’t affect me, I will continue.”

Muhd Luthfiy, 22, Student

Would it have affected your choice of continuing to smoke?

“Actually no, because the appeal factor of the cigarette is not from the box but the influence of friends and those close to you. The plain boxes actually don’t help.”

Would you quit?

“It will limit my smoking but not stop. After you start, you can’t really stop. Once you are addicted, it is hard to stop. The packaging won’t affect because you already know your brand.”

Yasir Hisham, 19, Student

Would it have affected your choice of continuing to smoke?

“Honestly, no. Even with the pictures it doesn’t make a difference. Smoking is an activity you choose. Whatever you want to do or not, it’s your choice. It won’t make any impact.”

Would you quit?

“No, because like the packaging is just the outside of the box. what’s inside is harmful. Let’s symbolise it as a person, what he seems like may not be what he is. The packaging doesn’t really matter.”

Lee Hao, 18, Student

Would it have affected your choice of continuing to smoke?

“I would still smoke. Cos the surrounding people I have mostly smoke.”

Would you quit?

“I will still continue. It’s more about the cigarette inside not the packaging.”

Amid bin Ismail, 20, Student

Would it have affected your choice of continuing to smoke?

“Not really, because like if let’s say I never start smoking, you won’t know what each brand is. It is more of who influenced you.”

Would you quit?

“No, not really. It depends on the smoker. If the person got the feel to smoke, they will just continue.”

Saif Erfan, 18, Student

Would it have affected your choice of continuing to smoke?

“I would have still picked up smoking. I find the box cooler than now. It looks minimal. Looks nice.”

Would you quit?

“No, won’t affect anything. I always know what i am going to get what. It’s what is in the inside.”

Izmir bin Taufiq, 19, Student

Would it have affected your choice of continuing to smoke?

“No I don’t think so. The packaging doesn’t matter to me. It’s more of the influence.”

Would you quit?

“No, cos I am already addicted to smoking. So it doesnt matter.”

Muchammad Farauk, 18, Student

Would it have affected your choice of continuing to smoke?

“Not really. I see my friends smoking and I bought my first cigarette pack to try.”

Would you quit?

“I might. Won’t feel like there is certain creativeness to the pack if it is plain. I will be bored after a while. It may actually help me as I am trying to quit.”

Alvin Lee, 18, Student

Would it have affected your choice of continuing to smoke?

“No, it’s based on friend’s influence. I don’t know the pack that I first time smoke.”

Would you quit?

“It won’t affect me smoking because we already know what the cigarette tastes like and what we like. It may affect those who just started as it is not attractive.”

Shaw Li Fan, 21, Student

Would it have affected your choice of continuing to smoke?

“Not really, anyway it is like peer pressure. When you are young and you want to try out all these stuff.”

Would you quit?

“No, it is not going to change the cigarette.”

Hwayun Lee, 21, Student

Would you have started?

“Yeah possibly. The packaging is not important for smoking.”

Would you quit?

“No, definitely not. I’m already addicted to smoking. so I cannot stop it.”

Justin Hong, 23, Student

Would you have started?

“Yeah I think so. Cos it looks like… now design right, it looks like cruel (pointing to the health warning image on pack). If we change I think it looks more soft.”

Would you quit?

“I think many people will smoke if the design is changed if the design is soft. For example, one of my friends quit smoking because of this cruel design (points to health warning image). In my case, my smoking habit is not related to design. It is just my habit. So, I don’t think so.”

Aginaya Mae, 23, Student

Would you have started?

“Yes. Cos I don’t buy cigarettes for the packaging. It doesn’t make sense.”

Would you quit?

“No. I still want my Next Chill.”

Hong Wen, 21, Student

Would you have started?

“Yeah. Because peer pressure, work stress. I don’t think the packaging would have mattered.”

Would you quit?

“No. Cos it’s a addiction. I need to for like work and sometimes for communication with bosses and all that.”

 

Additional reporting by Abhinay Lakshman

Featured image a collation by Tadikamalla Vivek.

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