Health warnings on individual cigarettes may cut smoking

Aug. 30 (UPI) — What if health warnings about the dangers of smoking were on individual cigarettes? A new study suggests the move could reduce the number of people who light up.

Young smokers view these images as unpleasant, uninviting and depressing, which suggests they would be more effective at keeping people away from cigarettes, according to a study published Friday in Addiction Research and Theory.

“The consensus was that individual cigarettes emblazoned with warnings would be off-putting for young people, those starting to smoke, and non-smokers,” Crawford Moodie, a researcher at the University of Stirling and study author, said in a news release. “This study suggests that the introduction of such warnings could impact the decision-making of these groups. It shows that this approach is a viable policy option and one which would — for the first time — extend health messaging to the consumption experience.”

For the study, the researchers surveyed 120 smokers older than age 16 who participated in 20 focus groups in Scotland in 2015. People from all groups thought the warnings would have a negative effect on them.

This isn’t the first suggestion put forth by public officials to raise awareness about the dangers of smoking. In mid-August, the FDA proposed listing health warnings with images that would cover half the front and back of a cigarette pack, a proposal that follows similar actions in Europe.

“Too many young people are still taking up smoking,” Moodie said. “Government anti-smoking campaigns and tax rises on cigarettes remain the most effective methods to stop young people starting smoking, but we need to continue to explore innovative ways to deter them from using cigarettes to ensure that youth smoking rates continue to drop.”

In the United States, nearly 16 percent of males and 12 percent of females smoke cigarettes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The agency estimates 1 in 13 people ages 17 and younger will die from illnesses linked to smoking — about 5.6 million children.

“This study shows that tactics like making the cigarettes themselves unappealing could be an effective way of doing this,” Moodie said.

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