Warning images for cigarette packs do not make a strong enough emotional impact

May 21, 2013, University of Granada
One of the supposedly negative anti-smoking images proposed by the European Commission, which participants in the study perceived to be "pleasant".

The warning images Brussels proposes to include on tobacco packages in order to reduce consumption do not make the desired impact on smokers because they only find some of them really unpleasant. So, if the European Commission wants to improve the efficacy of its anti-smoking campaigns, it should produce a new set of images that make a stronger emotional impact.

These are some of the conclusions of research conducted in the Department of Personality, Evaluation and at the University of Granada by Miguel Ángel Muñoz, Luis Ciria y Jaime Vila Castelar, to assess the of the tobacco-warning images on cigarette packs proposed by the .

University of Granada researchers have conducted two complementary studies on the same topic. In the first—published in Tobacco Control—they recorded the subjective opinions of 597 participants, grouped into six age ranges: 13-14, 15-16, 17-18, 19-20, 21-22 and over 23 years. The participants were shown the European Commission's proposed set of 35 tobacco-warning images.

Measuring impact with physiological tests

In the second study, recently presented at the "I Iberian Conference on the Clinical Physiology of Health and Sport (I Congreso Ibérico de Psicología Clínica de la Salud y el Deporte), researchers used objective physiological tests to measure the efficacy of these images. In a sample of 50 subjects aged between 19 and 23 years, they analysed variables like perspiration, movement of the zygomatic muscle (which reflects smiling) or of the corrugator muscle (located between the eyebrows).

They also studied the subjects' head movement on seeing the images. "When movement is backwards, it means there is an avoidance response, in other words, the person moves away because the image is unpleasant," says Miguel Ángel Muñoz, principal researcher. If the head movement is forwards, that means we perceive the image as pleasant. Movements are measured with a which can detect small changes in body tension.

Results from this second study corroborate those of the first: the tobacco-warning images proposed by Brussels do not make an impact strong enough to provoke an avoidance response that would make people distance themselves from the stimulus, in this case, the cigarette pack. "Most of the photos are perceived as unpleasant but they don't make a strong enough impact on the subject," says Dr Muñoz.

What's more, not only are some of the images not perceived as negative—"people actually see them as positive. So, they could have the opposite effect by motivating people to approach the stimulus, that is, tobacco." This is what happens with one photograph showing the folded hands of an elderly woman, or another with an ultrasound scan image of a foetus.

Less explicit photos

Dr Muñoz says that as the problem affects several EU countries one possible solution "would be to use less explicit photos on —photos that might have nothing to do with smoking—and that are related to the feelings we want to arouse in people". In this way, if we want to transmit a sense of asphyxia "we can illustrate the idea with a person with a bag over their head, and if we want to make people feel disgust, we can include a photo of insects, say".

In view of the results of the two studies, the University of Granada researchers propose that "the tobacco-warning images proposed by the European Commission should be reviewed because they do not achieve the desired level of impact in the population. Furthermore, their use was approved in 2003. As they have been in use since then without being changed, people have become accustomed to them, which this contributes to their failure to achieve the desired level of impact," he concludes.

Explore further: US supreme court rejects challenge to new cigarette labeling

Related Stories

US supreme court rejects challenge to new cigarette labeling

April 22, 2013
(HealthDay News) —The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a tobacco industry challenge to a controversial 2009 federal law that mandates graphic warning labels on cigarettes. The high court refused to hear the case, essentially ...

Canada orders tougher cigarette warnings

September 27, 2011
Canada's tobacco manufacturers and importers on Tuesday were given until March 2012 to adopt new austere warning labels on cigarette packages featuring a woman dying of lung cancer.

Graphic warning labels reduce demand for cigarettes

August 8, 2011
Will graphic cigarette package warning labels significantly reduce demand? A new study suggests it will.

Russia to put shock images on cigarette packs (Update)

September 3, 2012
Russia on Monday unveiled a series of graphic images, including of a gangrenous foot and a still-born baby, that will be printed on cigarette packs as the country tries to trim its sky-high rates of smoking.

Tobacco firms sue US over graphic cigarette labels

August 17, 2011
Four tobacco companies filed a lawsuit against the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Tuesday over what they say are unconstitutional requirements for warning labels on US cigarette packaging.

Recommended for you

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

January 15, 2018
Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

Your dishwasher is not as sterile as you think

January 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—Your dishwasher may get those plates spotless, but it is also probably teeming with bacteria and fungus, a new study suggests.

Study reveals what sleep talkers have to say

January 12, 2018
A team of researchers with members from several institutions in France has conducted a study regarding sleep talking and has found that most sleep talking is not only negative in nature, but involves a large amount of swearing. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.