In Bangladesh, smokeless tobacco (SLT) is available in a variety of pack shapes and sizes. Lack of standard packaging could limit compliance with pictorial health warning label (HWL) requirements. We explored Bangladeshi SLT users’ and non-users’ perceptions of a proposed standard pack shape for gul (tobacco powder) and zordha (chewing tobacco), including the role that HWL placement plays on harm perceptions.
We conducted 28 focus groups across three regions of Bangladesh: Dhaka, Sylhet and Khulna. Groups were stratified equally by urban/rural residence, gender and SLT use. Trained facilitators used a standardised guide to discuss perceived attractiveness, noticeability of HWLs and perceived harm of current versus standard packs.
Most groups found bright colours, ‘brand owner’ portrait imagery, and strong, sturdy pack material of current packs attractive. Many of the same features increased perceived attractiveness of the standard packs. Pictorial HWLs on the standard packs appeared larger and increased the visibility and noticeability of HWLs compared with current packs. Lack of HWLs or limited visibility of HWL due to discolouration contributed to lower levels of perceived harm of the current packs. In contrast, HWL prominence and placement on both sides of the standard pack increased perceived harm of standard packs.
The findings suggest a standard shape and size for SLT sold in Bangladesh, coupled with proper implementation of HWLs per the law, could improve HWL noticeability and increase harm perceptions. Additional plain packaging policies that also standardise pack colour may be required to reduce attractive colours and branding.