By Erik Pineda
Graphic images carry more punch in convincing smokers to kick the habit, a new U.S. study said, which also showed that mere text warnings were no match to powerful representations of the numerous ill-effects of cigarette smoking.
Researchers led by Dr James Thrasher of the University of Carolina in Columbia confirmed on their study of 1,000 individuals that “that pictures work better than text,” in terms of driving home the message that smoking leads to serious health conditions and even death.
Mr Thrasher added that such findings are applicable not only in the United States but also in other countries including Australia, which this year is set to implement one of the strictest regulatory measures that the global tobacco industry will face.
By December 2012, cigarette products being sold locally are legally required to come in drab packages, with the plain look to be complemented by imposing health warnings that occupy much of each pack’s total makeup.
Rolling out this kind of policy is powerful enough to reduce any country’s incidence of smoking but more traction for such campaign will be gained if compelling images of people suffering from tobacco-related diseases are used, Mr Thrasher said.
“Our research supports this finding while also showing what tobacco researchers have assumed for a while – that warnings with pictures work particularly well among smokers with low levels of literacy,” the lead author of the new report was quoted by USNews as saying.
The report is set to be published by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine on December 2012, USNews said.
According to Mr Thrasher, the findings that he and his co-researchers arrived at are especially true for smokers with low health literacy.
This bracket of the respondents “rated the warning labels with pictures as more credible than text-only messages,” the report said while “the warnings with very graphic imagery were rated as the most effective by smokers with both high and low health literacy.”
The strongest indication that the study has reflected is that governments “should put prominent, graphic warnings on cigarette packages . . . (because) smoking is highest among people with the least education,” such as the case in the United States, Mr Thrasher stressed.
Dr Aditi Satti of the Temple University Health System in Philadelphia and is not part of the study offered that “a picture is probably worth a thousand words . . . (for) lower-income, less educated (patients).”
Putting strong images along with specific health warnings “get people at least thinking about what the consequences of smoking cigarettes are. It gets them in the contemplation state,” Mr Satti told USNews.