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Graphic pictures the most effective health warnings on cigarettes

Wednesday 7 February, 2007

Large comprehensive warnings on cigarette packages are more likely to be noticed and rated as effective by smokers, according to a multi-country study to be published in the March 2007 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine

Researchers, including Professor Ron Borland from The Cancer Council Victoria, also found that more prominent graphic pictures on cigarettes were the most effective in influencing smokers' behaviours.

The authors analysed data from four waves of surveys taken during 2002-2005 of adult smokers in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. Data was collected before the new Australian graphic warnings came in from March 2006.

Almost 15,000 smokers were surveyed on their awareness of the messages, any changes in understanding of the risk of smoking, their intention or motivation to quit and any behavioural changes they had noticed in themselves.

Professor Borland said although most countries require warnings about health risks on every package, but the effectiveness of these warnings depends upon the design and the "freshness" of the message.

"The study suggests that more prominent health warnings are associated with greater levels of awareness and perceived effectiveness among smokers."

"In Canada, the impact of graphic health warnings on cigarettes, which were in place at the time of the surveys, remained high four years after they were introduced."

"Canadian smokers were significantly more likely to report thinking about the health risks of smoking, to stop from having a cigarette, and to think about quitting because of the health warnings."

"The findings suggest that graphic warnings evoke more of an emotional response, increase memory and awareness of health risks, and reinforce motivations to quit smoking."

Executive Director of Quit Victoria, Mr Todd Harper, said the study also illustrated the importance of regularly revising and updating the warnings on cigarette packages.

"The study showed health warnings on cigarettes in the United States, which have not been updated since 1984, were the least effective."

"In Australia we have the capacity to rotate our new graphic health warnings but it is also critical to update and revise them on a regular basis to ensure the truth about the deadly consequences of tobacco use is communicated to smokers."

"The introduction of graphic health warning in Australia last year means that every time someone buys a pack of cigarettes they will be exposed to the harms of smoking, and then once again, each time they reach for a cigarette."

"Although this has represented significant progress, we must now put processes in place to systematically update graphic health warnings and make them a larger, more prominent feature of the cigarette packaging."

 

ends

Edwina Vellar,
Media Manager
ph: (03) 9635 5400
mob: 0417 303 811
email:
Edwina.Vellar@cancervic.org.au

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