Picture warnings have bigger impact on smokers than words

Jan 18 2013, 02:16 IST
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SummaryPictorial warnings are more effective in conveying dangers of tobacco than single-line text warnings, ‘Impact of Tobacco-Related Health Warning Labels across Socioeconomic, Race and Ethnic Groups’, a study published in international peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE this week, reveals.

Pictorial warnings are more effective in conveying dangers of tobacco than single-line text warnings, ‘Impact of Tobacco-Related Health Warning Labels across Socioeconomic, Race and Ethnic Groups’, a study published in international peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE this week, reveals.

A sample size of 3,371 adult smokers from various ethnic groups was divided into two groups. One was exposed to pictorial health warning labels (HWLs) and the other to text-only HWLs, such as ‘Cigarettes cause cancer’, and reactions were recorded. It was found that the perceived impact and intention to quit was stronger in those exposed to pictorial warnings.

A comparison of three Latin American countries found that, in the only country among the three with graphic pictorial HWLs, smokers with lower education were more likely, than higher educated ones, to think about smoking-related risks and quitting.

Senior author Vish Viswanath, associate professor of society, human development and health at Harvard School of Public Health, said, “There is a nagging question whether benefits from social policies apply equally across ethnic and racial minority and social class groups. The evidence from this paper shows this new policy of mandated graphic health warnings would benefit all groups. Given the disproportionate burden of tobacco-related diseases faced by the poor and minorities, mandating strong pictorial warnings is an effective and efficient way to communicate the risk of tobacco use.”

“Given that low-income and minority communities have higher smoking rates and suffer disproportionately from tobacco’s health consequences, such studies show us graphic warning labels can help reach these subgroups in a more effective way,” said Donna Valone, senior V-P for research and evaluation at Legacy Foundation, Washington DC.

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