Calls for roll-your-own tobacco crackdown
Health academics want to make roll-your-own tobacco as expensive as tailor-made cigarettes and have suggested the papers be an "unattractive mustard colour" to make them less cool.
Loose tobacco was less expensive than manufactured cigarettes, which means smokers may switch to it rather than quit, the University of Otago researchers say in a paper published in the international journal Tobacco Control.
"The Government needs to remove this anomaly, introduce differential excise tax increases on rolling tobacco, and ensure there is no cost advantage in buying roll-your-own tobacco," said marketing researcher Professor Janet Hoek.
Roll-your-own had evoked stereotypes of older, heavily addicted smokers but from studying 20 young smokers the researchers found they got around that by mistakenly thinking of them as being more natural or "organic", and less harmful, Prof Hoek said.
"They also developed cigarette rolling rituals and saw the sticks they created as personal creations that provided them with social cachet."
The researchers also found an unattractive mustard colour could reduce their appeal.
"We need unattractively coloured rolling paper, and packaging used to contain rolling paper and filters should have to adopt standardised packaging, which features an unappealing colour and large pictorial warnings."
The researchers also say lawmakers should address the widely held misperceptions that loose tobacco was more natural and less harmful than manufactured cigarettes.
However, if people continued to believe it was less damaging there would be grounds for banning sales altogether.