Will sludge-color packaging deter smokers?

Muddy-colored cigarette packs in Australia also feature graphic health warnings. The UK has followed suit.

Story highlights

  • The UK now requires cigarette packs to be stripped of brightly colored branding
  • Public reportedly associates Pantone 448C with "dirty," "tar" and "death," market researchers say

(CNN)Can the sight of a greenish-brown color really be enough to deter smokers from reaching for their next pack of cigarettes?

Lawmakers in the UK hope the "world's ugliest color" will be helpful in lowering smoking rates in their country. In May, previously passed legislation will go into effect requiring all packs of cigarettes to be standardized. Tobaccos products will be stripped of brightly colored branding and replaced with a sludge-like color.
    But does the stripped-down, "ugly" packaging really reduce smoking?
      Researchers from the UK and Canada summarized several studies that look at the impact of tobacco packaging on consumer attitudes and behavior. Their findings were published today in a Cochrane Review.
      Jamie Hartmann-Boyce of the Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group, co-author of the review, noted that "the evidence we have so far suggests that standardized packaging may reduce smoking prevalence and increase quit attempts."
      The UK law, passed last year, is similar to a cigarette standardization plan Australia enacted in 2012, which also features graphic health warnings and standardized fonts.
        The muddy color -- Pantone 448C -- was chosen after marketing research company GfK Bluemoon was commissioned to develop ideas for unappealing cigarette packing. The agency asked Australian smokers about colors they found unappealing and overwhelming. Pantone 448 C was later named "the world's ugliest color."
        Respondents reportedly associated the color with the words "dirty," "tar" and "death."

        Deterring bathroom breaks

        Cigarette and tobacco packaging is not the first time the murky shade has been used in an attempt to turn people away from certain behaviors. According to Angela Wright, a color consultant and author of "The Beginner's Guide to Colour Psychology," the technique has been around for decades.
        She cites American color consultant Faber Birren, who in the 1960s devised a way to stop department store employees from taking lengthy bathroom breaks.
        "The company asked him, 'Can you improve the working area so they don't have to leave all the time and use the restrooms?' " Wright said.
        "Birren actually took a different view and painted the restrooms in a color similar to Pantone 448C. And nobody wanted to spend time in the restrooms after that."
        This is just one of the many examples that the "world's ugliest color" has been used to minimize appeal to control human behavior.

        Is Pantone 448C really that bad?

        What makes Pantone 448C so off-putting? Wright said she believes it's the association with human waste.
        "It makes perfect sense that smoking packets would use a vile green that looks like bodily fluids and makes people feel slightly nauseated," she said.
        But not everyone agrees.