Picture warnings on cigarette packs could help reduce the number of smokers, according to a new research study published in The Journal of American Medical Association. As part of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control and Federal Retirement Reform, tobacco companies were required to display more prominent warning labels, including the use of graphic images that convey the dangers of smoking like lung disease and cancer on cigarette packs.
For the current 40 million U.S adults that smoke cigarettes, the CDC projects that nearly 480,000 will die from diseases caused by smoking. This cigarette warning label research study suggest that graphic images along with bolder text warnings could help discourage smoking.
Cigarettes and Graphic Picture Warnings
There were a total of 2,149 smokers enrolled in the research study that assessed the effectiveness of warning labels as part of a 4-week trial. Participants either received a pack of cigarettes that included the standard Surgeon General text-only warnings or a pack with a graphic picture warning on the top half and back of packs. Following the completion of the trial, participants were asked to come do a series of surveys to evaluate the effects of the warnings on their attempts to quit smoking.
Graphic Cigarette Warning Label
Image Source: www.fda.gov
After an analysis, researchers found that 40% of smokers who received graphic warnings labels on cigarette packs made an attempt to quit smoking. However, only 34% of participants who were given text-only warnings on cigarette packs made an attempt to quit. Further evaluation of the data also revealed that 5.7% of smokers who received graphic image warnings quit smoking, compared to just 3.8% of those shown a text-only warning. Researchers noted that while these numbers may not seem significant, the effects of these graphic image warnings could have a much larger impact on a larger smoking population.
FDA Cigarette Labeling & Consumers
Current FDA labeling regulations require cigarette packets to include text-label warnings that state “Cigarettes are addictive”, “Cigarettes can cause fatal lung disease”, and ‘Cigarettes can cause strokes and heart disease”. This study suggests that using graphic image warnings on cigarette labels benefits public health, but may never be implemented because of special interests.
The use of graphic image warnings on cigarette packs as required by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control and Federal Retirement Reform signed in 2009 have been met with numerous challenges. In 2012, a judge ruled that it was unconstitutional for the FDA to mandate the use of graphic image warnings, citing it as a violation the freedom of speech of tobacco companies under the first amendment. This irresponsible decision in favor of powerful cigarette companies leaves the responsibility to individuals to assess health consequences, including finding medications for quitting smoking.