Graphic cigarette warnings more effective than text labels

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted June 25, 2012

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Graphic warning labels in cigarette advertisements improve smokers’ abilities to recall the health risks of smoking, says a study published online June 15 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Half of the study’s participants who viewed a text-only cigarette warning label correctly recalled the warning compared with 83% of those who saw a graphic label. The more quickly a participant looked at the text in the graphic warning and the longer they viewed the image, the more likely they were to recall the information correctly.

Researchers had 200 daily smokers ages 21 to 65 view either a text-only cigarette warning label in use since 1985 or a warning that contained a picture of a hospitalized patient on a ventilator. The graphic label is similar to warnings the Food and Drug Administration proposed for cigarette packages. A federal appeals court ruled March 19 that mandating such warnings on cigarette packages is constitutional.

The study took place between March and July 2011. Participants lived in the Philadelphia area and were not trying to quit smoking. Recall was assessed by asking patients to type the contents of the warning label after they viewed it. Eye-tracking technology was used to measure the amount of time participants spent looking at the warning and to help examine how attention is drawn to certain aspects of the label.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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