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Cigarette health warnings push smokers to quit

/ 03:18 AM May 31, 2011

WASHINGTON—Warnings on cigarette packets about the dangers of tobacco have been effective in pushing smokers in the Philippines and a dozen other countries to kick the habit, according to a study released last week by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

And graphic images depicting human suffering have been the most effective tool in making smokers quit, the CDC study found.

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Nearly all adult smokers in countries where a World Health Organization (WHO) convention requires health warnings on tobacco products noticed the health warnings.

And more than half of smokers in six of 14 countries in the study said the warnings made them think about quitting.

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In the remaining eight countries, with the exception of Poland, more than one in four survey respondents said the warning labels had prompted them to consider kicking the habit, according to the study.

For the study, researchers analyzed findings of the Global Adult Tobacco Survey based on data collected between 2008 and 2010 for smokers in the Philippines, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay and Vietnam.

The researchers found that health warnings that stood out prominently on the package and used pictures/graphics in describing the harmful effects of smoking were most likely to get someone to consider quitting.

Graphic warnings not only reach smokers who cannot read but they also evoke an emotional response from a smoker and motivate them to quit, according to the CDC study.

The study noted that Brazil and Thailand—which both had “numerous prominent and graphic pictorial warnings in rotation”—also had some of the highest rates of smokers thinking about quitting because of the warnings.

But for reasons that are still unclear, there was also a high number of smokers in Bangladesh and Vietnam who thought about quitting even if the health warnings in these countries were not as graphic.

The CDC wants to do further research in determining how many smokers who think about quitting because of a warning on a packet actually do.

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The US agency also wants to find out what are the other factors that motivate someone to stop smoking.

According to the WHO, tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death and is estimated to kill more than 5 million people a year worldwide, mostly in low- and middle-income countries.

The WHO considers health warnings on cigarette packets a key tool in combating the global tobacco epidemic, along with price increases, smoke-free policies and advertising and sponsorship bans. AFP

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TAGS: Cigarette, health warnings, smokers, survey, Tobacco, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization (WHO)
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