Teens heed smoking warning signs

Paul Hayes

18/04/2019 1:09:58 PM

Graphic warnings on cigarette packaging have a strong effect on teenagers, but the impact on older people is starting to wane, a new study has found.

Cigarette packet
The study found graphic warnings and plain packaging increased younger people’s awareness of the dangers of smoking.

The study, conducted by researchers at James Cook University, analysed data from previous studies involving close to 16,000 people around the world aged 11–19.
According to lead researcher, PhD candidate and lecturer Aaron Drovandi, the fact most smokers establish the habit in their teen years means messages that discourage smoking are especially vital in those early years.
‘Smoking still kills about seven million people a year. It’s still incredibly dangerous and nicotine addiction during the formative years is linked to more significant risks to long-term health, productivity and life expectancy,’ he said.
Mr Drovandi said that while graphic warnings and plain packaging increased younger people’s awareness of the dangers of smoking, there was ‘significant variation amongst adolescents into the type of warning that they responded to best’.
The study found that graphic warnings depicting lung cancer, oral diseases and foetal damage were particularly effective on teenagers, while warnings about impotence and skin ageing has less impact. Teens also took more notice when graphic images of the external effects on real people were used in the warnings.
Adults, on the other hand, were found to be tuning the message out.
‘Even though people were still looking at the pictures and messages, it was not affecting their behaviour,’ Mr Drovandi. ‘They felt that portraying the negative health consequences of smoking had been overdone.’

The study found adults feel graphically showing the negative health consequences of smoking ‘had been overdone.’ 

Plain packaging was also found to have an impact on younger people, reducing the attractiveness of cigarettes. Darker colours were found to be the most effective.
‘[Plain packaging] also increased the visibility of the health warnings,’ Mr Drovandi said. ‘People saw the cigarettes involved as having more tar content and having more serious health risks, and they had increased thoughts about quitting.’

cigarette packaging graphic images smoking


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