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Article | How do young adult female smokers interpret dissuasive cigarette sticks?

The tobacco industry have had a long standing interest in attracting young women to smoking. In this recently published article in the Journal of Social Marketing, researchers from ASPIRE2025 discuss one way that smoking could be made less attractive to this important group. That is through the object of consumption itself, the cigarette stick.

View the video below to hear ASPIRE2025 Co-director Janet Hoek discuss her new research into dissuasive cigarette sticks and their potential to reduce smoking prevalence.



This paper aims to investigate how young adult women smokers, a group the tobacco industry has specifically targeted, interpreted dissuasive sticks. Australia’s decision to introduce plain packaging has aroused international attention and stimulated interest in complementary initiatives. To date, research attention has focused on external packaging and few studies have examined the physical objects of consumption – cigarette sticks.


We conducted two focus groups and 13 in-depth interviews using purposive recruitment. Data were analysed using thematic analysis.


We identified three overarching themes: smoking as an act of overt and conspicuous consumption; cigarette sticks as accoutrements of social acceptability and dissuasive colours as deconstructors of the social façade smokers construct. Dissuasive sticks challenged connotations of cleanliness participants sought, exposed smoking as “dirty” and connoted stereotypes participants wanted to avoid.


Research limitations/implications – Although small-scale qualitative studies provide rich insights into participant’s responses, experimental work is required to estimate how a wider population comprising more varied smoker sub-groups responds to dissuasive sticks.

Practical implications – As policymakers internationally consider introducing plain packaging, they should examine whether dissuasive sticks could enhance measures regulating the external appearance of tobacco packages.

Social implications – Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and disability. Plain packaging and dissuasive sticks show considerable potential to reduce smoking prevalence and the burden of ill-health that results.

Originality/value – This is the first study to explore how dissuasive sticks would distance smoking from the social identity smokers seek. The findings provide a platform for experimental work that estimates the potential behavioural outcomes dissuasive sticks could stimulate.


Hoek, J., Robertson, C. (2015) How do young adult female smokers interpret dissuasive cigarette sticks? Journal of Social Marketing, Vol. 5 Iss 1 pp. 21 – 39

For further information, or to request a copy of the article, please contact:

Professor Janet Hoek
University of Otago

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