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Health Warnings at Back of Pack Make Little Impact on Teen Smokers

Update Date: Sep 05, 2013 05:36 PM EDT

Warnings on the back of tobacco packs may not deter teens from smoking, according to a new study. Researchers said this is especially true in regular teen smokers.

Pictorial warnings are more effective than text alone but since they are positioned on the back of the pack and hence are less visible, their effect is vandalized.

The World Health Organisation standard is to cover at least the half of the front surface area with pictorial warnings. But its shockingly surprising that only five out of 60 countries world-wide have introduced this policy in which more than 75% of the main surface areas of pack is covered with pictorial warnings. The five countries doesn’t include any European country.

The research was done on more than thousand teens, from 11 to 16 years old in UK. They were quizzed about the visibility and impact of the warnings on the pack in terms of their persuasiveness, clarity and how well they got the message through those pictorial and text warnings.

Only half of the respondents said they had ‘often’ or ‘very often’ noticed the warnings and twenty percent of them often read and looked closely at them.

The majority of the teens who thought that the warnings were persuasive enough to make them put off smoking only applied to never and experimental smokers. There was no change among the regular smokers because of the warnings.

“As warnings need to be salient to be effective, positioning pictorial warnings only on the less visible reverse panel limits their impact,” the authors of the research wrote. “While recall was high at both waves for pack-front warnings, it was low (below 10%) for the pictorial warnings on the pack reverse, fear-appeal pictures aside," they added.

The authors believe that the UK has used same pictures since 2008 which may have caused the increment in ‘wear out’ factor.

The findings are published in the journal Tobacco Control

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