Contrary to popular opinion, many smokers are not aware of the risks of tobacco use. They may know that tobacco “is bad for them,” but few realize the magnitude of risk relative to other behaviors (like eating junk food, for example), their likelihood of dying from a tobacco-caused disease (half of all smokers), or can name specific diseases, other than lung cancer, caused by smoking.
Experience in Brazil, Canada and other countries shows that strong health warnings on tobacco packages – particularly warnings with images – can be an important source of information for young smokers, and that warnings increase smokers’ knowledge of risk and their motivation to try to quit smoking.
Are Smokers Adequately Informed About the Health Risks of Smoking and Medicinal Nicotine? Cummings KM, Hyland A, Giovino GA, Hastrup J, Bauer J and Bansal MA
Tobacco risk perceptions and behavior: Implications for tobacco control K. Michael Cummings
“Bulletproof skeptics in life’s jungle”: which self-exempting beliefs about smoking most predict lack of progression towards quitting? Oakes W, Chapman S, Borland R, Balmford J and Trotter L
“A picture tells a thousand words.” So it seems with package warnings. A number of countries now require health warnings with images on tobacco packaging, starting with Canada in 2000 and Brazil in 2001. Research has found that strong, relevant image-based warnings inform smokers and motivate them to try to quit smoking. Click below for information on each country.
Visit the following links to see photos of warnings by country.
Impact of health warnings messages Health Canada commissioned studies
Labeling research (pre-implementation of image warnings) Health Canada commissioned studies
Evaluation of new warnings on cigarette packages Canadian Cancer Society
Enhancing the effectiveness of tobacco package warning labels: a social psychological perspective E J Strahan, K White, G T Fong, L R Fabrigar, M P Zanna and R Cameron
Impact of the graphic Canadian warning labels on adult smoking behaviour D Hammond, G T Fong, P W McDonald, R Cameron and K S Brown
Response of Australian health groups to 2004 warning label proposals (excellent summary of the issues)
Cigarette Pack Labeling BAT PowerPoint presentation concluding that “current conventions and treaties afford little protection” against health warnings.
"Avoid health warnings on all tobacco products for just as long as we can": a history of Australian tobacco industry efforts to avoid, delay and dilute health warnings on cigarettes S Chapman and S M Carter
Package messages are ineffective