If cigarette packets are plain, it does not seem to excite teenagers and could actually turn them off from smoking.
Australia is the first country to announce a plan to force tobacco into plain packaging with large pictorial health warnings-a move the industry says it will fight.
AdvertisementFrom 2012, the only remnant of branding would be the name of the product, in uniform print. Gone would be the colours and attractive pictures.
"I think it would be hugely powerful for young people. The pack is the last bastion of tobacco industry promotion," the New Zealand Herald quoted Auckland University researcher Judith McCool as saying.
McCool co-supervised master's degree research by Lisa Webb in which 80 students aged 14 or 15 from six Auckland schools were interviewed about their attitudes to smoking, smokers, tobacco packaging and plain packets.
The study found that for teenagers the plain packets were dull, but they said that it enhanced the impact of the graphic health warnings.
"These perceptions were transferred to the act of cigarette smoking as an unattractive or uncool behaviour," said the researchers.
The teenagers thought plain packaging would remove the "purpose" of smoking. It then became simply a "bad habit" rather than a cool and rebellious behaviour".
Many submitters to the Maori affairs select committee's tobacco inquiry have urged the MPs to recommend the Government impose plain packaging on the industry among a range of new tobacco control policies.
The Auckland study found that although the present graphic warnings - some of which show body parts diseased from smoking - were designed to prompt adult smokers to quit, they also led teenagers to view smokers as undesirable, prompting descriptions like "addicted", "lacking in common sense" and "social outcasts".
But the teenagers were confused by the health messages appearing on brightly coloured packets alongside brand imagery, and this blunted the effect of the warnings, said the researchers.