Graphic images used in warnings on cigarette packs have the most-pronounced short-term impacts on adult smokers, according to researchers at the University of South Carolina, Columbia.
When compared to to text-only warning labels, smokers rated the images as more personally relevant and effective. Participants with low health literacy group found the images to be “more credible.”
Investigators surveyed 981 current smokers after they randomly viewed either the current US packaging, which includes a text warning label; or experimental packages featuring either graphic health images (such as human suffering) or symbolic imagery (such as gravestones). Some of the images tested are part of FDA’s proposed labels for cigarette packaging, currently blocked from implementation by a court ruling.
Smokers consistently scored the images as being more effective. This held true across high- and low-health literacy groups. More study is required to assess how smokers respond to the imagery over time, and how often it should be rotated to avoid habituation, according to researchers.