Supersize Cigarette Warning Label?
Study: Larger Labels With Pictures -- As in Other Countries -- May Make Smokers Think Twice
WebMD News Archive
Feb. 6, 2007 -- American cigarette warning labels might be more effective if
they were big and graphic -- like those in some other countries, according to a
The news appears in the March issue of the American Journal of
In the study, researchers surveyed nearly 15,000 adult smokers in the U.S.,
U.K., Canada, and Australia to test the effectiveness of the warning labels
used in those four countries. The surveys were conducted between 2002 and
The key finding: The U.S. labels, which were the smallest and least
detailed, were also the least effective.
"The current findings, along with previous research, suggest that U.S.
smokers might benefit from large graphic warnings on cigarette packages,"
write the researchers, who include David Hammond, PhD, of Canada's University
U.S. cigarette labels include four warnings written on the side of cigarette
Canadian, Australian, and British cigarette warning labels are much bigger,
include more health warnings, and appear on the front and back of the
The Canadian label covers half of the front and back of cigarette packages.
It includes 16 warnings in print as well as pictures, such as a graphic
suggestive of impotenceimpotence and the words "Tobacco use can make
The Australian label includes six written warnings but no pictures. It
covers a quarter of the front and a third of the back of cigarette
The U.K. revised its cigarette warning label in late 2002, adding 10 written
warnings (such as "Smoking when pregnant harms your baby") for a total
of 16 written warnings on the front and back of the package. The warning text
was also enlarged at that time.
World of Warnings
Some other countries get even more graphic with their warning labels,
according to the report.
For instance, a Thai label includes a picture of a man smoking, with skulls
floating in the background.
A Brazilian label shows an unhappy couple in bed, with a warning about
impotence from smoking.
Another label image proposed (but not required) by the European Union is a
drawing of a dead man, his eyes covered by a cloth, lying on a table. The words
"Smokers die younger" appear next to that image.
Hammond's team didn't analyze the effectiveness of those labels.