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The Next Big Thing in Anti-Smoking? Recorded Messages on Cigarette Packs

Update Date: Jul 04, 2013 01:18 PM EDT

Smoking kills millions of people throughout the world each year because it contributes to diseases, such as cancer. Political campaigns and organizations have developed numerous tactics and methods to prevent people from picking up the habit and to get smokers to quit. Anti-smoking programs, such as using gory images or presenting warning labels have worked to a certain extent. But the fight against tobacco usage needs more tools. A recent study done by researchers from the Stirling University's Center for Tobacco Control Research in the United Kingdom, evaluated the effects of using a prerecorded message in helping smokers quit.

The researchers designed two different devices. In one of them, there was a prerecorded message that played when smokers opened the carton, similarly to opening a birthday card with music. This message provided the smoker with a number to call for advice on how to quit effectively. The second device had a similar recording system but with a different message. This message read aloud the effects of smoking on lowering one's fertility. Both messages could be replayed whenever and would replay each time the packet is opened. The recordings were also used in conjunction with warning labels and gory images depicting the effects of smoking that were already on the carton.

The researchers presented these designs to women between the ages of 16 and 24. This age group has been identified as high risk because a lot of people falling in this category are currently smokers. The researchers found that for the age group of 16 to 17, the teenagers stated that the messages were discouraging and made them want to quit. However, this effect was not seen throughout the entire age group.

"I think you would probably get used to it. Once you start smoking you just ignore it," one smoker commented, according to Daily Mail. Even though some might choose to ignore it, other participants stated that they would stop opening the packets just because the messages were annoying. The researchers believe that these recordings could be effective in helping a lot of smokers quit the habit.

"With the talking packs, people thought they were really annoying, but that is a really good way to capture attention. It created a lot of interest," Crawford Moodie, one of the researchers, said. Although this new tactic could potentially help with the current anti-smoking campaigns, any new changes in packaging require new legislation.

"The tobacco industry buys a great deal of creative expertise to market its addictive and lethal products to new consumers, mainly young people," Sheila Duffy, chief executive of ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) Scotland said. "I welcome the suggestion that we get more creative to put forward images of good health and freedom from addiction as alternatives to tobacco, and that we start requiring tobacco companies to present the truth to their consumers in more eye-catching ways."

Tobacco companies have recently tried to get more consumers by appealing to the aesthetic side of women. By making packages pretty, colorful and flashy, they believe that more people, especially women and youth, would buy them. This study shows that this form of advertising can go both ways in persuading and dissuading smoking.

The research team plans on testing the device in men. 

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