TEENAGERS would be less inclined to start smoking if cigarettes were in plain packaging, a new survey says.
The 15- to 16-year-olds questioned believe attractive packaging is encouraging young people to take up the habit, the findings from two health charities show.
Young people said cigarettes communicated "fun" and "style" and made the smoker "look and feel better" about themselves.
Although cost prevents teenagers from buying premium brand cigarettes, appealing packaging provides the incentive to buy and "can communicate perceived benefits of smoking one brand over another".
When they were shown the new standardised packaging proposed by the Government, the young people said they would not be attractive to them because they were "at odds with the image they want to portray".
One teenager said plain packaging would appeal to "an old person who smokes loads – they are too far gone and wouldn't care if they are seen with the packets anyway".
Under the reform, boxes will be a generic size and colour, feature the brand name on the bottom and carry a large picture showing the harmful effects of cigarettes.
The legislation will ban logos, branding, colours, graphics and trademarks from cigarette packets, making Ireland only the second country to do so after Australia.
Dr Reilly said: "It is not acceptable that a product that kills 5,200 Irish people every year is packaged in a slim, pink container that strongly resembles perfume or lipstick.
"Given all we know about the dangers of smoking, we cannot allow deceptive marketing gimmicks to be used to lure our children into a deadly addiction that will ultimately kill half of those who become addicted."
Dr Reilly said he expected a strong challenge from the tobacco industry, which is keen to protect its profits not only in Ireland but throughout the EU and in the US.
Tobacco firms are paying 161 lobbyists to make representations to more than 700 MEPs.