The government is leaving no stone turned to control youngsters from engaging in smoking habit. With the initiatives like giving anti-smoking messages on cigarette packs, the government has hoped for remarkable results in their goal. However, a new study has played down the impact of such moves. It says picture warnings on cigarette packets depicting the dangers of smoking make little impact on teenage smokers.
According to the study, big anti-smoking messages on the front of cigarette packets may help deter youngsters tempted by tobacco but have little effect when they are on the back of the pack. However, they did have an effect on non-smokers and experimental smokers.
The study – published by the Tobacco Control journal – looked at data from the Youth Tobacco Policy Survey before and after the introduction of the images. In 2008, cigarette packets sold in Britain had large text warnings on the front and back. In 2011, these were joined by anti-smoking pictures on the back panel of the pack.
Around 2,800 children participated in the survey, which unfolded in two waves, in 2008 and a followup in 2011. Of the 2,800 children who were questioned, one in 10 was a smoker, while the others were either non-smokers or children who had just experimented with smoking.
All were asked if they recalled the text message or the picture, and say which warning was likely to discourage them from smoking. The most commonly recalled messages were the two types of general warnings on the packet front.
“Smoking kills” was remembered by 58 percent in 2008, while “Smoking seriously harms you and others around you” by 41 percent.
These rates fell to 47 percent and 25 percent respectively in 2011.
In contrast, the more specific text messages on the back of the pack were recalled by less than one percent of participants both in 2008 and 2011. Recall of the back-of-the-pack images was generally below 10 percent in both waves.
Lead researcher Dr Crawford Moodie said that while it was disappointing that the images did not seem to have an impact on smokers, the rise in the numbers of non-smokers and experimenters being deterred was a “really positive” result.
But he said there was also a risk of people becoming desensitised – the images and text warnings have not changed since they were introduced in 2003 and 2008 respectively.
“Other countries regularly change their warnings. I think if we rotated them here they would have more impact.”
The study was published in the specialist journal Tobacco Control by the British Medical Journal (BMJ).