‘Graphic’ Health Warnings Deter Smoking, Canadian Researchers Find
"Larger, more graphic" health warnings on cigarette packs sold in Canada have "heightened concern about the dangers of tobacco" among Canadian smokers, according to a study conducted by the Canadian Cancer Society. The Wall Street Journal reports that under Canadian law, the top half of the front and back of a pack of cigarettes is required to include graphics such as color photographs of diseased lungs, hearts or mouths (Fairclough, Wall Street Journal, 1/10). Other pictures show a brain after a stroke or a "limp" cigarette, meant to illustrate smoking's link to impotence. In a survey of 2,031 people, including 633 smokers, about half of the smokers said that the labels "increased their motivation to quit." About 20% of smokers said that the pictures kept them from smoking "at least once," and 25% of smokers said that they concealed the pictures with a sleeve to avoid looking at them (Karleff, Reuters/Contra Costa Times, 1/9). The survey also found that 43% of smokers said the warnings made them "more concerned" about the dangers of smoking (Wall Street Journal, 1/10). Ken Kyle, director of public issues for the Canadian Cancer Society, said, "It's clear that the warnings work, and one result will be improved health for many Canadians" (Reuters/Contra Costa Times, 1/9).
The Canadian study's findings "probably will strengthen the hand of regulators and politicians who want to impose similar labeling requirements in the U.S.," the Journal reports. Citing the study, Reps. James Hansen (R-Utah) and Martin Meehan (D-Mass.) said that they planned to introduce legislation to require warnings like the Canadian ones on U.S. cigarettes. Meehan said the bill would require the warnings to cover half of the front of a pack of cigarettes and half of the space on advertisements. Michael Pfeil, a spokesperson for Philip Morris, said that the tobacco company would support "devoting reasonable space" for graphic warnings as long as room was available for trademarks and brand information. He said that Philip Morris opposes the use of "shock images" and that any labeling requirement should be part of legislation that gives the FDA regulatory authority over tobacco products (Wall Street Journal, 1/10).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.