Collection: United States
It is known that smoking cigarettes has numerous harmful effects on people’s health, and one tactic used to dissuade people from smoking is explicitly stating these effects on cigarette boxes via warning labels. People are more likely to see an anti-smoking message if it is present in the form of a label right on the outside of the cigarette box they are holding, which is why these pack warning labels can be an effective form of advertising.1
They can be text-only, like the ones on Winston cigarettes boxes in the UK that say “Smoking seriously harms you and others around you,” or also include graphic images, such as the ones in Brazil that include images ranging from a stillborn baby to a dismembered and blackened foot. One study “found that 50 percent of subjects remembered the text-only warning label, while 83 percent correctly recalled the label that contained a graphic image,” so it is a more effective advertising strategy to incorporate pictures on labels because the message will then be more memorable. In fact, “research on pictorial warnings show that they are: (i) more likely to be noticed than text-only warning labels; (ii) more effective for educating smokers about the health risks of smoking and for increasing smokers’ thoughts about the health risks; and (iii) associated with increased motivation to quit smoking.”2 Pictorial labels are also more effective at raising awareness of the health effects of smoking in areas with low literacy rates.2
However, a study on the effectiveness of Canadian warning labels shines light on the big issue of whether or not people stop to read and think about the warning labels, as people who do so are the ones who are “significantly more likely to either quit, attempt to quit, or reduce their smoking.”3 Another issue that is often brought up is the defensive and avoidant behavior that pictorial images may elicit, but in reality, “such reactions are actually indicators of positive impact” caused by the presence of graphic images.2
Note: US anti-smoking graphical warnings were proposed, but was never implemented.