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Novel ways of using tobacco packaging to deter smoking

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  • Full or part time
    Dr C Moodie
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

About This PhD Project

Packaging is an important marketing tool for tobacco companies, helping to capture attention, create brand awareness, foster positive brand attitudes and communicate product attributes. For smokers, the pack is their personal choice, a statement of their identity, something that stays with them wherever they go and something that it is typically seen countless times a day. The pack turns a generic product into a bespoke marque. Even for non-smokers, tobacco packaging is a familiar feature of life, whether within shops, as litter or in the hands of smoking friends and relatives. It is unsurprising, then, that tobacco companies have been very creative in their use of all elements of the pack – colour, shape and design, the cellophane wrapper, inserts, and the cigarette itself – to communicate the positive qualities of the product and the brand.

Governments have also recognised the importance of packaging as a communications tool. Health warnings, for instance, first appeared on cigarette packs almost half a century ago in the UK, and over time have increased in size and now include pictures. These warnings are a cost-effective and credible means of informing of the health risks of smoking. From May 2017 standardised packaging will be implemented, which will essentially leave all packs looking the same and make the health warnings stand out even more.

Much more could still be done with the packaging however. For instance, pack inserts are an inexpensive means of communication, and have been widely used by tobacco companies. Could the use of inserts, with positively framed messages encouraging smokers to quit and promoting self-efficacy to do so, be of value within the UK? There is also the cigarette itself, which tobacco industry journals refer to as an increasingly important promotional tool. While at a very early stage, academics have begun to explore the possibility of using the appearance of the cigarette to deter smoking, for instance unattractively coloured cigarettes or cigarettes displaying health warnings. Further research exploring these ideas, or the many other potential ways to reduce the appeal of cigarettes, would be of significant value.

There are likely many other possibilities of using the pack to discourage non-smokers from starting and encourage smokers to stop. Supposing, for example, the pack had an audio warning when it was opened? Or it featured a Quick Response barcode on the pack that could direct smartphone users to a stop-smoking service, or similar innovations using barcodes, like augmented reality, which could direct the user to social networking campaigns. The options are many and varied. As the Scottish Government has set a target date for reducing smoking prevalence to less than 5% of the population, and packaging is seen as a crucial platform for health promotion, this PhD could help generate ideas that could help reach this target.

This PhD would have two key objectives:
• To explore the range of possible health promoting packaging innovations, and
• To explore how consumers respond to some of these measures.

Why Stirling?

Researchers at Stirling conduct high quality research that ranges from the strategic to the applied and that makes a vital contribution to the economic, social and cultural life of Scotland and beyond.

The University’s performance in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) was outstanding, with Stirling enhancing its position as one of the top research-led universities in the UK. Stirling has moved up to 6th place in Scotland and 45th in the UK. Our research expertise covers a breadth of subjects and disciplines in natural, social and health sciences, the arts and humanities and in business and management.

Support for postgraduate researchers

Research students at Stirling are supported by a team of expert supervisors who will guide and advise you on your academic and professional development through your studies. PhD student training at University of Stirling is delivered both at a School (subject specific training) and University (generic and transferable skills training) level, the latter being largely provided by Stirling Graduate School (SGS). The programme of generic skills training maps to the Vitae Researcher Development Framework and includes seminars and workshops on statistics, career planning, manuscript presentation, dealing with the media, presentation skills, the viva, compiling bibliographies, assessment methods, tutorial organisation, teaching skills, thesis writing and troubleshooting, sources of research grants and applications, cv production and job interviews and applications.

For more information about the projects available for studentships starting in October 2016 please visit


This project is advertised in relation to the research areas of the discipline of Health Sciences.

Apply online for the PhD in Health Sciences and select the start date of 1 October 2016.

NOTE: The first step of the application process asks you to name a supervisor and to upload a project proposal. Please do not do either - when you get to this step please contact [Email Address Removed] and tell them which studentship you are applying for (‘Tobacco control’) and the email address you used to apply. The team will ensure you are exempt from this step and you will then be able to continue with your application.

Informal inquiries can be made to Dr Crawford Moodie with a copy of your curriculum vitae and cover letter.

Funding Notes

This studentship fully funded by the University of Stirling and will cover the cost of home/EU fees, provide an annual stipend at RCUK rates (£14,296 for 2016/17), and £750 towards research training. The studentship provides funding for 3 years.

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