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How do young adult female smokers interpret dissuasive cigarette sticks? A qualitative analysis

Janet Hoek (Department of Marketing, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.)
Cherie Robertson (Department of Marketing University of Otago Dunedin New Zealand)

Journal of Social Marketing

ISSN: 2042-6763

Article publication date: 5 January 2015




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.


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.



The authors thank Professor Melanie Wakefield, Cancer Council Victoria and Associate Professor David Hammond, University of Waterloo, for their helpful input into this research. They also acknowledge Dr Lisa McNeill, who read an earlier draft of the MS.

This study arose from research undertaken as part of a New Zealand Health Research Council Grant (09/195R).


Hoek, J. and Robertson, C. (2015), "How do young adult female smokers interpret dissuasive cigarette sticks? A qualitative analysis", Journal of Social Marketing, Vol. 5 No. 1, pp. 21-39.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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