FDA New Cigarette Warning Labels

If you’ve been following the news lately, you may have read about the FDA’s new cigarette warning labels. Beginning in September of 2012, cigarette packages will begin to have warning labels that include pictures and will be displayed much more prominently on packages and in advertisements. Many of the warning labels include photographs of different aspects of the risks of smoking (mouth cancer, tracheotomy, premature babies, etc). To view these images and find out more information, visit the FDA website. It’s been 25 years since the FDA has changed cigarette warning labels and it’s about time. In the past 25 years, research has progressed and found that cigarette smoking can increase your risk of a range of diseases, not just lung cancer. In fact, smoking causes more premature and preventable deaths than any other behavior. But most importantly, research has found that the earlier you quit, the faster your body can reverse the damage done by smoking. This suggests there is hope! 

Social Psychology has found that scare tactics, such as showing threatening images, causes people to respond defensively and not accept the message. The only way that these scare tactics work is by suggesting a possible “way out” or solution to the problem. Do these new images do this? Or do they just scare people, causing them to respond as if they are unaffected? The FDA has tested these labels and found these 9 to be the most effective.

The best way for these messages to get across to smokers, is by having this threatening image and text, but following it up with a suggestion such as “Quitting now can help reverse the damage caused by smoking.” One of the graphic labels has text very similar to this, but it will not be included on every package. It seems likely that certain labels will be more effective than others. The FDA will continue testing these labels, and may make modifications as time passes and we learn more about how effective the images are at encouraging people to quit smoking.

For now, though, we’re left to speculate. What do you think? Do these labels have their intended effect of catching people’s attention and reminding them of the health risks of cigarettes? Do you think this will encourage smokers to quit?

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