Despite decades of printed Surgeon General’s warning on cigarettes boxes, smoking is still the number one cause of preventable death in the United States-causing about 443,000 deaths each year. For this reason the FDA has decided to change the federal mandated warnings on cigarette boxes to include images.
And some of these new images are graphic, including smoke billowing out of a hole in a person’s neck, and a corpse. Hopefully these images will encourage some people to quit, however, tobacco companies are finding new ways to hook kids on cigarettes. This includes new nicotine delivery devices such as “e-cigarettes”, which are basically nicotine inhalers.
Use of such visual ads to portray the dangers of smoking may be more effective with teenagers. Printed warnings may not have the same effect as showing the consequences of smoking and allowing a teenager to decide on their own whether to smoke or not. Sadly, each day about 1,000 youths start smoking.
However, some research indicates that death-related warnings may actually increase smoking in some people as such graphic warnings are a threat to self-esteem and smoking may relieve this unpleasant realization. In the past, one cigarette company even sold cigarettes under a “death” label which featured a black box with a skull and crossbones on the front of it.
Hopefully research studies will determine how effective visual warnings are on cigarette boxes.