Graphic images on cigarette packs make smokers think

Only text warnings are currently printed on cigarette and other tobacco packaging in South Africa, however, graphic warning labels with pictures of diseased lungs and mouth and throat cancers caused by smoking has been approved by the Department of Health and is expected to appear on local packaging in the near future.

The study included 200 current smokers who were randomly selected to view either a text-only warning label or a graphic warning label that included an image of a hospitalised patient on a ventilator and a written warning with larger text.

After viewing the warning labels, the participants were asked to rewrite the text from memory in order to see how well they recalled the information. There was a significant difference between the two groups in their levels of correct recall – 83 percent for the graphic-label group and 50 percent for the text-only group.

Holding the user’€™s attention

The study also found that the quicker a smoker looked at the large text in the graphic warning, and the longer they viewed the graphic image, the more likely they were to recall the information correctly, said the researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in the United States.

The findings suggest that drawing attention to the warning label can improve the recall of information and increase the chances that smokers will think about the risks of smoking, the researchers said.

“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,” study lead author Andrew Strasser, an associate professor in the psychiatry department, said in a Penn Medicine news release.

“We’re hopeful that once the graphic warning labels are implemented, we will be able to make great strides in helping people to be better informed about their risks, and to convince them to quit smoking,” he added.

In past studies in Europe and Canada, graphic warning labels have proven to be effective in eliciting negative responses to smoking, increasing reported intention to quit smoking in smokers, and modifying beliefs about smoking dangers. However, these previous research results have generally been conducted using large, population-based studies that could be confounded by concurrent tax increases or anti-smoking media campaigns that coincide with the introduction of new warning labels.

Sources: HealthDay News, EurekAlert!

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  • Health-e News

    Health-e News is South Africa's dedicated health news service and home to OurHealth citizen journalism. Follow us on Twitter @HealtheNews

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