Studies have indicated that graphic warnings on cigarette packets still have no effect on underage smokers.
Images on the body of cigarette packets, illustrating what an infected lung can look like as a result of long-term smoking, were first introduced in the UK in 2008.
According to a BBC report, a study which was carried out at Stirling University involving 2,800 underage kids, discovered that the graphics had little to no effect whatsoever on putting off smokers between 11 to 16 years of age.
Out of the 2,800 underage kids in the study, only 1 out of 10 were regular smokers, while the rest did not smoke at all or had tried smoking on occasion.
The images did, nevertheless, have some kind of effect on children who did not smoke and those who wished to experiment with cigarettes.
The Tobacco Control Journal had published the study, which examined any data coming from the Youth Tobacco Policy Survey both before and after the children’s viewing of the graphic illustrations. Prior to the introduction of pictures, only written warnings were used.
Young teenagers who did not smoke, and those that had experimented, believed that the images would put them off smoking, although attitudes of the actual smokers in the study within that age bracket hardly changed at all, with a minor increase from 13 to 14 percent.
The doctor leading this research, Dr Crawford Moodle had expressed disappointment in the limited effect that the images seemed to have on the young smokers, although he added that he found the increase in numbers of non-smoking and experimental smoking children a “really positive” outcome.
However, Dr Moodle did say that the process of displaying these graphic warnings could lead to desensitization, as the images have not been updated since their initial introduction during 2003 and 2008. He said:
“Other countries regularly change their warnings. I think if we rotated them here they would have more impact.”
According to a report by the BBC, back in 2010, the government had urged cigarette merchants to conceal cigarette packaging in an effort to shield children from their exposure and in order to make smoking appear less attractive to youngsters.
The Health Secretary at the time, Andrew Lansley, had said that it was time to make the packaging appear less attractive as the designs were too “glitzy” and tended to attract young children. Lansley expressed his concerns with underage smoking, the effect on youngsters’ health as well as the cost to the NHS.
He pointed out that there is clear evidence that the body of cigarette packaging is designed to attract and the sophisticated design would particularly appeal to youngsters. He went on that it was wrong to attract children in this way. Lansley also expressed the importance of protecting children from an early age from the marketing appeal of cigarette smoking and would rather that people did not smoke altogether.
Finally, Mr Lansley suggested that the levels of death and ill health due to smoking are still far too high and that this is having a tremendous impact on the NHS. He said that he would rather the money that is currently and needlessly wasted in the treatment of diseases caused by smoking could eventually be put to better use by educating children against the perils of smoking and also for the treatment of cancer.
Since last year, Australia laid out drastic directions, which forced their tobacco manufacturers to use logo-free packaging that carried strong graphic images. Because of their advertising regulations, they have also managed to cut smoking significantly for smokers aged upwards of 14 years.
Written by: Brucella Newman