PICTURE BASED CIGARETTE WARNINGS

Health warnings with pictures 
are a very effective way to reduce smoking.

Downloadable Fact sheets on warning labels:

Canadian Cancer Society (large file)

Framework Convention Alliance
World Bank
Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada

Canadian Cancer Society (Rob Cunningham)

Other web-sites devoted to picture based warnings:

Packaging and labelling (PAHO)
Tobacco Labelling Resource Centre (University of Waterloo)


Reasons for picture-based cigarette warnings:

Health messages on cigarette packages deliver important information directly to smokers. The message is repeated and reinforced every time a smoker reaches for a cigarette.

Smokers believe these messages more and remember them better than they do public education campaigns.

They are inexpensive for governments to implement and tobacco companies pay the costs of printing them.

What makes warning messages most effective?

when pictures and text are clear and simple.

when the warnings are combined with something that makes smokers feel more confident about quitting. 

In Canada cigarette packages include inserts about how to quit smoking and in Australia cigarette packages will show the telephone number of the “quit line”.

 How can warning messages help smokers quit?

► by helping them understand how serious the diseases caused by smoking are and how likely they are to get them.

► by linking the warning with their own experience so that the message is more believable and accepted.

by motivating them to take steps to protect their health.

 When do smokers notice warnings and think about the information?

► when the warning is at the top and front of the package.

 ►when warnings are specific and clear  with an expanded explanation (NOT general, like “smoking is harmful”).

when warnings evoke an emotional response.

► when warnings are vivid.

when warnings are changed regularly (and particularly when  they stop being noticed).

when here are several different warning messages in use.

Does size matter?

Yes! Effectiveness of warning labels has been shown to increase with the size of the warnings.  The bigger they are, the more likely they are to be noticed and read by the smoker.

How can warnings meet the needs of smokers who have difficulty reading or who don’t understanding health issues?

► by using pictures that can be understood even without the text.

by communicating values and personal messages, and not just health information.

 Do smokers already know all the risks and harms of smoking? 

NO! They do not know the number of diseases that can be caused from smoking, the likelihood of becoming ill from smoking or the severity of tobacco-caused disease.

 Should warnings  be on both sides of the package?

Yes! Otherwise they will be displayed by tobacco companies and retailers with the warnings hidden.

 What else can be done to make cigarette warnings more effective?

In addition to providing health messages, cigarette warnings could:

remind smokers of other harmful effects from smoking in addition to health effects. These include environmental, social and economic costs.

encourage smokers to seek help from other people.

support public health measures, like bans on smoking in public place.

focus on the concerns of specific population groups (for example, young men or women).

increase smokers’ confidence in quitting.  People are more likely to try to quit if they think they will be successful

emphasize the benefits of quitting.

 Large health warnings also reduce the attractiveness of cigarette packages and help create an environment where smoking is less acceptable.