Study: Graphic Health Warnings May Work

    Image: Tobacco Reporter archive

    Graphic health warnings on cigarette packs do indeed scare smokers, but they should be combined with other anti-smoking measures, reports HealthDay, citing new research published by Jama Network Open.

    For the study, David Strong, professor in the School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science at the University of California, San Diego, assessed how 357 smokers in San Diego responded to graphic warning labels used on cigarettes sold in Australia.

    Participants in the study received one of three types of cigarette packs: a pack with a graphic warning label; a blank pack; or a standard commercially available U.S. pack.

    Those who received cigarettes in the standard pack or a blank pack had no change in their positive views of cigarettes, but there was a decline among those who received a pack with a graphic warning label, the investigators found.

    Health concerns increased in all three groups, likely because they were forced to think about the health consequences of smoking more often, the study authors noted.

    “While these labels make smokers more likely to think about quitting, it did not make them more likely to make a serious quit attempt nor was it sufficient to help them quit their nicotine addiction,” said study senior author Karen Messer.

    “Thus, graphic warning labels are an integral component of tobacco control strategies, but they are only one tool for governments to reduce the societal costs from the death and disease caused by tobacco smoking,” Messer said in a university news release.

    According to Strong, graphic warning labels are used in more than 120 countries to counter marketing that promotes cigarette smoking. U.S. lawmakers approved graphic health warnings in 2009, but implementation has been stalled until legal challenges to the law by the tobacco industry are resolved.