How Effective Will New Graphic Cigarette Warning Labels Be?

By Staff Writer

The Food and Drug Administration’s regulation that all cigarette packages contain an image depicting the possible health consequences of smoking recently went into effect. The move is intended to help more smokers seek addiction treatment for their habit before it costs them their life. But how effective are such warning labels?

Some countries around the world require similar warning labels on cigarette packaging. However, there is relatively little evidence to support the notion that these images hold down smoking rates.

The World Health Organization recently released results from a survey of individuals in countries where such warning labels are required, including Russia, China, Egypt, India, Thailand, Bangladesh, Mexico, Poland, Turkey, Uruguay, Ukraine and Vietnam. The results indicate that the labels inspired few smokers to quit.
In all, the harsh warnings prompted 25 percent of participants to consider quitting. While this is a positive step, no evidence emerged from the survey that the labels prompted anyone to quit.

The officials behind the survey said that graphic warning labels are a positive public health move that could make a difference in a country’s smoking rates. While this may be true, the decision might not have the impact U.S. policymakers hoped for.