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Cigarette Graphic Warning Labels Easier to Remember Than Text-Only Warning

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Smokers are more likely to recall information from graphic cigarette warning labels than text-only warnings, a new study finds.
Previous studies that found the graphic warning labels were effective did not factor out other anti-smoking campaigns, or tax increases, CBS News reports.

The new study included 200 smokers. Half viewed a text-only warning label that contained an unedited version of the Surgeon General’s warning and Federal Trade Commission testing information, which have appeared on cigarette ads since 1985. The other half looked at a graphic warning label containing the picture of a hospitalized patient on a ventilator, with a large warning that has been proposed by the Food and Drug Administration.

The researchers used eye-tracking technology to measure how long participants looked at various parts of the ad, how many times they looked at each area, and other measurements to determine if they were paying attention to the ad. After they looked at the ad, participants rewrote the warning label, to show how well they recalled it.

Half of the participants remembered the text-only warning, while 83 percent were able to correctly recall the label with the graphic picture. The faster they looked at the large text in the graphic warning, and the longer they viewed the graphic image, the more likely they were to correctly remember the information, the researchers reported in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

“In addition to showing the value of adding a graphic warning label, this research also provides valuable insight into how the warning labels may be effective, which may serve to create more effective warning labels in the future,” study author Dr. Andrew A. Strasser of the University of Pennsylvania said in a news release. “We’re hopeful that once the graphic warning labels are implemented, we will be able to make great strides in helping people to be better informed about their risks, and to convince them to quit smoking.”

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