11 Jun 2024

Graphic photos on tobacco packaging no longer motivating people to quit smoking - study

10:53 pm on 11 June 2024
A man points at proposed cigarette packaging by the World Health Organization (WHO) showing various ailments caused by cigarette smoking, displayed at the WHO office in Manila on October 10, 2011. The World Health Organization's chief on October 10 urged governments to unite against "big tobacco", as she accused the industry of dirty tricks, bullying and immorality in its quest to keep people smoking.

The World Health Organisation proposed cigarette packaging that showed various ailments caused by smoking in 2011, but recent research has found it has lost some of its impact. Photo: AFP

New research has found the graphic photos on tobacco packaging are no longer motivating people to stop smoking.

The current labels were introduced in 2018 and show diseased organs.

University of Otago research fellow Lani Teddy said the warnings had not been refreshed and had lost impact.

"For example, many on-pack warnings feature diseased organs that participants found difficult to recognise. They felt messages that recognised them as whole people would create greater empathy and do more to encourage them to quit," she said in a statement.

The researchers asked 27 people who used roll-your-own tobacco and came from Dunedin and Wellington how they responded to the graphic warnings on tobacco packs.

The study found people were avoiding looking at the warnings and did not believe they would be personally harmed.

Teddy said the study found smokers were more likely to care about the cost of smoking, the stress of addiction, and how their habit affected their loved ones.

Research co-leader Janet Hoek said the packaging should also include details on how to quit smoking.

Aotearoa lagged behind other countries in adopting policy innovations that could be adopted here, she said.

"Other countries are moving ahead with additional product design policies. Canada has introduced warnings on individual cigarettes, a move that Australia is also considering. Australia has brought in new regulations that allow for filter regulations and is banning the use of flavour capsules, which make smoking more appealing to young people," she said in a statement.

Since the government has repealed the Smokefree 2025 goal, Professor Hoek said the findings of the study should be used by the government as a basis for new policies to reduce smoking.

"The repeal of the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Smoked Tobacco) Amendment Act 2023 has left a policy vacuum. The government should demonstrate its commitment to the Smokefree 2025 goal by adopting international best practice in both tobacco product and packaging measures.

"At the very least, the government should maximise the impact that existing measures, such as on-pack warnings, could have and complement these with advice that will help people quit."

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