Gory images on cigarette packs don't stop teens

New research suggests that graphic warning images are unlikely to dissuade teen smokers who are already addicted

By Faine Greenwood
September 8, 2013 4:00PM (UTC)
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This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

Global PostA new UK study has found that graphic warning images on cigarette packets don't dissuade teen smokers who are already addicted, although they seem to have more impact on non- and "experimental" smokers.

The research, published in the Tobacco Control journal, surveyed 2,800 kids from age 11 to 16, after the 2008 introduction of warning images on UK cigarette packaging.


The University of Stirling researchers assessed various measures of in the effectiveness of warnings on cigarette packages, including salience, depth of processing, credibility, and avoidance techniques, among others.

Researchers found that children who self-identified as smokers were relatively unimpressed by the graphic images of cigarette-related woe, although children who didn't smoke and those who smoked only occasionally were more swayed.

Interestingly, it matters if the gross picture is on the front or the back of the cigarette pack.


"As warnings need to be salient to be effective, positioning pictorial warnings only on the less visible reverse panel limits their impact," said the study's co-authors, according to the International Business Times. "While recall was high at both waves for pack-front (text) warnings, it was low — below 10 percent — for the pictorial warnings on the pack reverse, fear-appeal pictures aside."

Researchers also warned that it's possible for gory images to "wear out" as people become accustomed to them.

More than 60 nations now require pictorial warnings on cigarette packs, notes the Australian Courier-Mail newspaper, while five countries — Australia, Brunei, Canada, Sri Lanka and Uruguay — require that the graphic images cover at least 75 percent of the surface of the pack.


The UK research comes on the heels of new information on the usage of electronic cigarettes, a popular alternative to the real thing for those attempting to kick the habit.

A US Centers for Disease Control and Preventionstudy found that usage of the seemingly benign smokes among middle and high schoolers doubled in 2012 from the previous year, concerning experts who remain unclear on what the possible side-effects of the nicotine vaporizers could be.



Faine Greenwood

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Cigarettes Globalpost Packaging Smoking Teens Tobacco Control Journal