On this month (new blog series): Graphic images on cigarette packs, 2011 and now


Long before facebook introduced the “On this day” app (an app that shows you what you did on facebook on the exact date one, two or x years ago), I had developed the habit of going back to my e-mails of one, two, x years ago and see what they were about. Sometimes I found that some issues that bothered me in the past were still bothering me in the present. In some other cases I realised that what seemed important 2 years ago was almost laughable now. I found this a good way to assess how some things are moving forward in your life (or not).

Leaving aside the fact that facebook obviously stole *my* idea right from within my head, I thought about looking back on previous blogposts from this blog and see (with your help of course) how is the current situation for some issues we have talked about in the past. I had to slightly modify the “On this day” idea, as I have not been blogging everyday (sorry!), so let’s call it “On this month”!

Today I chose a post from June 2011, entitled “Are graphic images on cigarette packs the way forward or will it all end in smoke? “. Back at that time, the inclusion of graphic pictures and warning texts on the packs was announced in the US, giving rise to some debate. When I reread this post today it made me wonder: what  information do we have about the effectiveness (or not) of such warnings 4 years after?

According to the tobacco labelling research center, there are currently warning pictures in 77 countries (compared to 40 when our original blogpost was written in 2011), covering 49% of the total population of this planet. This is quite an impressive increase, I say!

What about recent studies? From a quick search, I found that there has been a recent meta-analysis looking at 37 experimental studies on the effect of picture warnings compared to text warnings. This meta-analysis found that picture warnings were more effective than text only warnings for 12 out of 17 effectiveness outcomes (like eliciting more negative smoking attitudes, increased intentions to quit etc.). Another recent study that created quite a media buzz, used functional MRI to assess the effect of graphic images on the brain activity. The study reports that labels rated high on emotional reaction were better remembered, associated with reduction in the urge to smoke, and produced greater brain response in areas such as the amygdala, hippocampi etc.

I do not claim -by any means- that this was a thorough research on recent developments so please let me know of any important studies I might have missed! I am also interested to know what do *you* think about graphic images on cigarette packs: do you think it makes a difference? Do you even notice them anymore (whether you are a smoker or not). Here in Switzerland, where graphic images have been on the packs since 2010 already I am under the impression that people got really used to them and do not really “see” them. Might be different for young people though!

Let us know what you think! How is it in your country?



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