Currently submitted to: JMIR Formative Research
Date Submitted: Sep 21, 2020
Open Peer Review Period: Sep 20, 2020 - Nov 15, 2020
(currently open for review)
Does the taste of the plain packaged cigarettes in Saudi Arabia really changed and differ from the branded cigarettes or it is a natural sensory change? Pilot Experimental Study
Saudi Arabia implemented tobacco plain packaging in August 2019. After few weeks of implementation huge number of smokers complained in various media channels especially social media (Twitter) claiming extreme change of how the cigarette taste, increase the frequency of coughing, and for some hospitalization caused by shortness of breath.
The main objective is to answer the question: Does the taste of the plain packaged cigarettes recently implemented in Saudi Arabia really changed and differ from the branded cigarettes or it is a natural sensory change? The secondary objective is to observation of frequency of immediate cough or shortness of breath.
This study is a pilot prospective, one-group posttest-only design, which recruited smokers 18 years old and above, who are currently smoking cigarettes and cleared upon physical assessment before the experiment. Participants received 6 sequences of different random exposures (3 puffs) to 3 plain packaged cigarettes (2 from the favorite brand and 1 other brand “control”) and 3 branded cigarettes (2 from the favorite brand and 1 other brand “control”). Participants wore Virtual Reality Goggles (VR) accompany with a special software to alter the visual reality and wore gloves to alter the touch sensation.
Participants were not able to identify the correct type of cigarettes (plain or branded (Estimate of fixed effect -0.01 p=0.79). Moreover, there were no differences in the ability of the participants to identify their favorite brand t(-0.63) mean=0.47 p = 0.53. In terms of immediate coughing out of the 108 experiments 1 episode of short coughing was observed and it was attributed to the branded cigarette not the plain packaged.
After controlling the visual and touch sensation participants were not able to difference between branded and plain packaged cigarettes in terms of taste or inducing immediate shortness of breath or cough. Interestingly, participants were not able to identify their favorite brand.
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