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Smoking warnings: shock pictures plus positive response
In many countries around the world, warnings and shocking images have been printed on cigarette packs for years to indicate the health risks of tobacco use. While these are having an impact, a new study says it would do even more if the positive effects of stopping smoking were highlighted.
Warnings and shock images worldwide on cigarette packs "Smoking dies earlier", "Smoking can be fatal", "Warning! Smoking causes cancer ”: This is something like the messages that have been printed on cigarette packs in many countries around the world for years. In addition, shock images of gnawed lungs, black teeth or patients with breathing tubes are shown on the parcels in many nations. Researchers at the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in the United States have now investigated whether it would not be more effective to convince smokers of the benefits of living without tobacco than to warn of the health consequences or possible painful death. The scientists came to the conclusion that the answer to this question apparently depends on whether the person addressed is confident enough to quit smoking.
Death warnings do not work for all smokers As part of their study, Darren Mays and his team interviewed 740 smokers aged 18 to 30 about the effect of the messages on the cigarette packs. It was shown that neither the messages aimed at the benefits of stopping smoking nor the death warnings had any effect on all smokers. As the researchers write in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research, positive messages that emphasize the benefits of a smoke-free life particularly appealed to those smokers who believed that they could get away from the cigarette.
Combining positive and negative messages For people whose imagination is difficult to quit, on the other hand, the text "Smoking kills" is more effective. In the case of the shock images, the "Image information on lung diseases and cancer" produced the strongest effect. As the scientists continue to write, most messages on cigarette packs would point out the dangers of smoking. However, it cannot convince all smokers, says Mays: "Our study shows that you can make more smokers quit if you use both positive and negative messages."
Shock images in future in the EU too The European Union (EU) will also use shock images in the fight against smoking. From 2016, for example, rotten feet or a black smoking lung will be visible on cigarette packs. The warnings are said to be much larger than before: They will cover 65 percent of the front and back of cigarette boxes. The EU Commission originally recommended 75 percent. The warnings currently occupy at least 30 percent of the front and 40 percent of the back.
Particularly dangerous substances are to be completely banished. Tobacco products should also be used to completely ban especially dangerous additives that cause cancer, "change the genome or limit reproductive ability". The same applies to "flavors such as vanilla or chocolate, which soften the bitter taste of tobacco and thus make it easier for young people in particular to start smoking". And menthol cigarettes are also to be withdrawn from the market, but only from 2020. Even if it is to be welcomed that European countries react to the harmful effects of smoking, they are often lagging behind in international comparison.
Role model Australia Australia, for example, is often highlighted by experts with its exemplary function. Not only have shock pictures been used there for years, but even the name of the cigarette manufacturer is only small on the packaging. In addition, tobacco companies in Australia are practically completely prohibited from advertising and sponsorship today. The tightened legislation is having an effect: since 1983 the number of smokers on the fifth continent has more than halved. (ad)
Image: macromarco / pixelio.de