Graphic warning labels on cigarette packs 'work better'

Warnings on cigarette packets Large text warnings currently appear on the front of cigarette packaging and image warnings on the back

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Images of patients on ventilators on cigarette packets help smokers heed the health warnings about smoking, says US research.

A study of 200 smokers in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that 83% were able to remember the health warning if it was accompanied by a graphic image.

This compared with a 50% success rate when text-only warnings were viewed.

The UK government is carrying out a consultation on cigarette packaging.

Using eye-tracking technology, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania measured how long smokers spent viewing each part of a cigarette advertisement containing warning labels.

After looking at the advertisement, each participant was asked to write down the warning to test how well they remembered the information.

Start Quote

We believe the government should quash the idea of plain packaging, which only serves to make counterfeiting cigarettes easier”

End Quote Jaine Chisholm Caunt Tobacco Manufacturers' Association

The faster a smoker's eyes were drawn to the text in the graphic warning and the longer they viewed the image, the more likely they were to remember the information correctly, the study said.

'Valuable insight'

Dr Andrew Strasser, lead author of the study and associate professor at the department of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, said the findings were important.

"In addition to showing the value of adding a graphic warning label, this research also provides valuable insight into how the warning labels may be effective, which may serve to create more effective warning labels in the future," said Dr Strasser.

Dr Strasser said that he hoped graphic warning labels would help people become better informed about the risks of smoking and lead to a decision to stop.

In April the UK government launched a consultation seeking views on whether tobacco products should be sold in standardised packaging.

As part of the consultation, it is exploring the options of no branding appearing on the packet, using a uniform colour for all packets or using standard font, text or imagery on every packet.

The Tobacco Manufacturers' Association has previously said it welcomes the consultation.

But it also said there was no reliable evidence that plain packaging would reduce rates of youth smoking.

Jaine Chisholm Caunt, the secretary-general of the TMA, said: "We believe the government should quash the idea of plain packaging, which only serves to make counterfeiting cigarettes easier and make stock-taking and serving customers harder for legitimate retailers."

In the US, health officials ordered that graphic warning labels should appear on cigarette packets from September this year, but tobacco companies are challenging the decision in court.

Australia is currently the only country which has so far agreed to plain packaging and a ban on branding on cigarette packets.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    I'm an ex-smoker, I'm glad I did it but still have cravings even after 3 years. I no longer smell vile and have more cash for other things.

    I defend the right of anyone to smoke, until it is made totally illegal, then puff away if you can afford to. Getting 95% of folk to stop will not happen unless a £20 tax on 20 cigs is imposed.

    The images are horrid, lets hope the kids are scared by them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    As an ex-smoker, I gave up when I was ready to. As an educated person, I knew the health risks in smoking but I still did so. The images didn't make any difference to me, time and support was what it took.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    I noticed the images - for about 5 minutes; the man with the dodgy 70's handlebar moustache made me laugh most. I started smoking the same brand as my friends and the packet made no difference at all. When I chose my preferred smoke it was based on flavour and smoothness of the smoke not on what the packet looked like. The only way to stop kids smoking is to make it uncool and unrebellious.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Not sure they do entirely. What works is lack of ciggies on display, lack of advertising, lack of smoking in public places. Looks like we are finally winning the war on smoking and the nation's health will improve accordingly. NOW time to focus on obesity, many vested interests at work here just like tobacco compaies in thre past.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    As a smoker all I can say is you are wasting your time. Just as putting the packets behind closed doors solves nothing either. If health were the reasons then why not do the same to alcohol and fatty food? Because that wouldn't work either. Just go away and leave me to the risks, perhaps I don't want to end up in an old folks home, or be old in a World that's only driven for youngsters?


Comments 5 of 6


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