Graphic cigarette warnings don’t put out fire

by Jenny Novac on August 8, 2012

Soon after Health Canada launched one more set of grisly warning labels on cigarette packages, a research of 1,505 adult smokers funded by a Health Canada demonstrated that the agency’s previous test with warning labels was a reason Canadian population to stop smoking around non-smoking people, but may have done little in encouraging them to stop smoking habit for good.

Smoking Man

Man exhaling cigarette smoke

Q: Now Canada has been placing full-colour warning labels on cigarette packages for twelve years. Does not everyone already recognize that smoking is bad?

A: In accordance with the research, only 3 percent of Canadian smoking population still adhered to believe that smoking was absolutely fine. The rest openly declared that smoking is a cause of heart attacks, emphysema and cancer in general.

Q: So, why do people continue smoking?

A: While 10 percent of smokers affirm to have absolutely switched off the warning messages, one-third of smokers said that every day they read sentences such as “tobacco smokes hurts everyone” and “a single stroke can leave you helpless.” A half of all smoking people surveyed reported that the labels had become their reliable source for health information on cigarette smoking. The bigger the image, smokers said, the more likely they were to remember it.

Q: Are smokers stopping smoking?

A: Stopping smoking is of course one of the aims of such advertisements. Every diseased organ is an obvious message including a toll-free quitline number and incentive phrases such as “you can quit and breathe easier!” While 40 percent of smoking people reported that they believed in messages, only one-third said being able to stop smoking once for all. However, the greater part of smokers said the advertisements had encouraged them to give up smoking and not to smoke in places where it could affect non-smokers.

Q: Canada was the first to introduce graphic cigarette warning labels. Is anybody else doing it?

A: New Zealand, Australia, Singapore and some U.S. states have followed Canada. These countries moved from simple text-based warning messages to full-fledged graphics. The worldwide success of the campaign may be part of the reason why Canada moved to a new level with new messages that consist of 75 percent of the cigarette package. The first round had grisly pictures of diseased lungs and blackened teeth, the new images demonstrate a truly terrible slide show of results of smoking including a toilet bowl tinged with blood, a tongue ruined by oral cancer and a woman ravaged by the late stages of lung cancer.

Q: Anyway, who is smoking these days?

A: The rate of Canadian smokers is really being decreased. In 2001, 22 percent of Canadians were smokers. 9 years later, the level was dropped to 17 percent. Youth smoking rate has declined sharply to 12% from 22%.

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