A new Ohio State University study has provided real-world evidence that smoking warning labels that include graphic photos of the damage caused by regular tobacco use is effective in encouraging smokers to quit. For the study, the research team used graphic warning labels that were created by the Food and Drug Administration. One of the labels included an image of a man smoking through a hole in his throat, called a tracheostomy, which may be necessary as a result of some smoking-related cancers. The study involved 244 adults who smoked between 5 and 40 cigarettes each day.

The researchers found that smokers who saw graphic warning labels on every pack of cigarettes they smoked for 4 weeks had more negative feelings about smoking compared to those who saw only text warnings, and this led them to look more closely at the warnings and put more credence into them. The Science Daily report notes that this was associated with them thinking their habit was more dangerous and being more likely to consider quitting.

In addition, the participants remembered more of the health risks of smoking. Co-author of the study Ellen Peters explains, “The graphic images motivated smokers to think more deeply about their habit and the risks associated with smoking.”

A federal appeals court declared the use of warning labels unconstitutional in part because the images were “unabashed attempts to evoke emotion … and browbeat consumers into quitting.” Peters suggests that the court was not correct in its assessment of how the images work to discourage smoking.

“Smokers weren’t browbeaten by the images. The images definitely did stir their emotions, but those emotions led them to think more carefully about the risks of smoking and how those risks affected them,” Peters states. “What the court is missing is that without emotions, we can’t make decisions. We require having feelings about information we collect in order to feel motivated to act. These graphic warnings helped people to think more carefully about the risks and to consider them more.”

According to Science Daily, Abigail Evans, lead author of the study, says, “Our study provides real-world evidence of how viewing these graphic images over time has an impact on smokers beyond what occurs with simple text warnings. Policies requiring such labels have the potential to reduce the number of Americans who smoke.”

Photo Credit: Ohio State University

Source: Science Daily