Myth: Graphic cigarette warning labels effectively motivate individuals to consider the risks of smoking and increase intentions to stop smoking.
Truth: This is false.
Smoking leads to disease and death globally. The warning labels on cigarette packs are an attempt to use fear to motivate smokers to quit. Warning labels commonly include the negative consequences of smoking accompanied by graphic – and sometimes disturbing – images. Researchers in Belgium conducted a study to determine the effectiveness of graphic warning labels on cigarette packages. This study was published in PLoS One.
The participants in this study consisted of smokers, non-smokers, and occasional smokers. The study concluded that graphic warnings contradicted the intended effects. The results of the study suggest that graphic warnings lead to psychological reactance and it may be more impactful to use labels that are less fear-evoking. To read more about this study click, here.
- Van Dessel, P., Smith, C.T., De Houwer, J. (2018). Graphic cigarette pack warnings do not produce more negative implicit evaluations of smoking compared to text-only warnings. PloS ONE 13(3): e0194627. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0194627