Study: Anti-Smoking Messages Work Best On Youngsters If They’re On The Front Of The Pack

Seeing apparently only translates to the younger set believing when anti-smoking messages appear on the front of cigarette packages, says one study, and don’t have much effect when they’re displayed on the back. Researchers studied a set of British teenagers using both text warnings on the front and back as well as anti-smoking photos

Researchers studied the teens in 2008 and a followup set in 2011 to see what could help prevent kids from smoking, using youngsters 11-16 in the study, reports the Associated Press.

About two-thirds to three-quarters of the participants in the survey had never smoked before, while another 17% to 22% had already tried it out. The kids were asked if they remembered the text or the picture and if either one would work toward convincing them not to smoke. Most of the time, participants remembered the general warnings on the front of the pack.

Things like “Smoking kills” and “Smoking seriously harms you and others around you” were remembered well in 2008, but rates of recall fell quite a bit in 2011.

The more specific messages written on the back of the pack were only recalled by less than 1% of participants in both years.

The scary images were also not remembered often on the back of the packs, except for three images which reached a maximum remembered rate of 33%: rotting teeth, diseased lungs and neck cancer.

Those who had never smoked or only done so experimentally were more likely to remember the messages, compared to those who were already regular smokers. In that case, smokers decided just to buy “hiding packs” so they wouldn’t have to see the messages.

“As warnings need to be salient to be effective, positioning pictorial warnings only on the less visible reverse panel limits their impact,” says the study. “While recall was high at both waves for pack-front (text) warnings, it was low — below 10 percent — for the pictorial warnings on the pack reverse, fear-appeal pictures aside.”

Smoking warning works just on front of cigarette pack [Associated Press]