Pics 'don't stop teen smokers'

Smokers in their teens are not put off cigarettes by graphic photos on the back of packs, according to researchers at the University of Stirling. The text-only warning were found to have even less of an effect.

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Put graphic images on both sides of the pack, say charity

Cancer research is pushing for graphic images to be on both sides of the pack so young smokers can be warned off the habit. Credit: PA

The Tobacco Journal's research into the relationship between teenagers and anti-smoking pictures on cigarettes packets has shown why graphic images need to be on both sides of the packaging, a health charity has said.

Alison Cox, head of tobacco policy for Cancer Research UK, explained:

"This research boosts the extensive evidence that picture health warnings are very effective in reminding smokers about the dangers of tobacco," she said.

"We know that well-placed picture warnings work and discourage young people from starting to smoke so we're delighted that the European Parliament will vote on legislation for picture warnings to appear on both sides of cigarette packs."

"UK law requires picture warnings to appear only on the back of the pack. This research shows why European legislation is so important."

Scientists: Anti-smoking pics need to be more obvious

Authors of report into the effect of graphic pictures on teen smokers said they needed to be put in a more obvious place on the packet.

However, The Centre for Tobacco Control Research at the University of Stirling, warned pictures were not effective on regular smokers and only deterred teenagers experimenting.

As warnings need to be salient to be effective, positioning pictorial warnings only on the less visible reverse panel limits their impact.

They said the fact the UK has used the same pictures since 2008 may also have increased the "wear out" factor, particularly for regular smokers.

Positioning pictorial warnings only on the back of packs may have had a deterrent effect on never and experimental smokers, but for most measures no significant differences were observed.

The impact on regular smokers was negligible.

– the Centre for Tobacco Control Research at the University of Stirling


Findings on teen smoking and deterrent pictures

Online journal Tobacco Control carried out two surveys of over 1,000 11 to 16-year-olds in the UK were questioned about their response to warnings in 2008 and a further 1,000 were questioned in 2011.

  • Over half of the teenager in both surveys (68% and 75%) had never smoked and 17% and 22% had experimented with cigarettes.
  • One in 10 of the teenager questioned were regular smokers - they lit up at least once a week.
  • Half of those questioned in both surveys said they had 'often' or 'very often' noticed the warnings on packs, and around one in five had read them very often or looked closely at them.
  • The teenagers' ability to recall images depicting diseased lungs, rotten teeth and neck cancer, remained below 10% while three text warnings on the back of packs with no supporting images were recalled by less than 1% in either survey.

Teenagers still choosing to light up despite pictures

Teenagers are still choosing to light up despite the introduction of graphic pictures of the health risks of smoking on packs. Credit: PA

Pictures on packs of cigarettes are not deterring teen smokers from lighting up, research has shown.

According to online journal Tobacco Control, pictures have more effect on the smoker than written warnings, but because they are placed on the back of the pack, they have little overall effect.

The number of teens who occasionally light up saying warnings put them off smoking increased between 2008 and 2011, but not among regular smokers.

In this group, the proportion who said that the warnings stopped them from having a cigarette fell from 32% to 23%.

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