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Labels on Cigarette Packaging Research Paper

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Updated: Jun 11th, 2021

Disgusting images, for instance, the picture of a cigarette addict who is smoking through a surgical opening on the throat, offer a strong psychological blow to smokers. Issuing warnings with the aid of graphic images on cigarette packaging is an approach to effectively communicating the negative health impacts of smoking (Rosenberg, 2016). However, some researchers argue that it is psychological torture to include warning images on cigarette packaging. Attributable to information circulated through the media and learning at school, there is already enough warning against smoking. The use of labels and images on cigarette packaging may be too much and needless but might have a long-term positive impact.

Countering Craving

There is insufficient research assessing whether smoking warnings in anti-tobacco ads reduce carving or the impact is caused by counteracting information characteristics, particularly horrifying images (Clayton, Leshner, Tomko, Trull, & Piasecki, 2017). At a lab session, 50 participants were evaluated for remembrance and cognitive processing of several anti-smoking adverts, differing in the portrayal of smoking warnings and disgusting images.

Following the information, self-confessed smoking desire and plans to stop it were examined. The findings established that warnings made smokers keep remembering the negative effects hence tending to reduce the number of cigarettes consumed in a day. However, the warnings augmented craving while decreasing the intention to quit smoking. Disgusting images made the effects appear vivid and overwhelming, which led to decreased craving and high quit intentions. Using both warning and images appeared to moderate the level of craving and intentions to stop smoking due to self-protective processing and reduced recognition. Anti-tobacco information should leave out warning messages but use disgusting images.

Neural mechanisms

This study sought to check whether activation in parts of the brain associated with rewards and sentiments vary with the use of branded and plain packaging, smoking status, or because of visual consideration of health cautioning labels. The researchers used a cross-sectional observational study employing practical magnetic resonance imaging and eye-tracking (Maynard, Brooks, Munafò, & Leonards, 2017). Fifty-eight participants took part in the study.

The results established no impact on the type of packaging, smoking status, or visual consideration of the health cues. Nevertheless, it was found that the plain cigarette pack was more effective in reducing the degree of smoking than the branded ones. Anchored in the practical magnetic resonance imaging, over and above eye-tracking information, health caution seems stronger on the plain cigarette packaging when compared to the branded packs.


Some research works have established that the graphic health warning labels on cigarette packaging might result in vital information being rebuffed, which decreases the efficacy of such messages. The objective of this study was to establish the manner in which state reactance (that is, negative impact attributable to alleged manipulation) as a rejoinder to text and pictorial labels is linked to responses to other forms of warnings and consequent cessation endeavors. Data for the study were gathered after every four months in 2013 and 2014 from an online team consisting of 4072 smokers from different countries (Cho et al., 2017).

The use of health warning labels was found to cause off-putting emotional and behavioral effects on smokers without eradicating their smoking habit. However, repulsive images, response to stronger health warning labels, and reactance were established to cause smoking cessation attempts with time. The researchers assert that health warning labels are successful in eliciting smoking cessation. Therefore, policymakers should not be hesitant to use prominent health warning labels attributable to their apparently short-term negative effects because they have a long-term helpful influence on intentions to quit smoking.

Health Warnings

Health warnings scare smokers, thus increasing intentions to quit smoking. However, health warnings, strict legislation, and garnish images may not be effective ways of smoking cessation (Hunt, 2016). Instead, such approaches result in smokers feeling expelled from the community. It has been established that smokers either negate warnings and images or twist their meaning. For instance, some smokers chose to put cigarettes in other containers or conceal the packs with stickers. Other smokers start smoking as a tactical reaction to mitigate the threat of delivering large babies or smoke harder with increased warnings.

That works against the intention of warnings and disgusting images. This signifies that smoking is not done out of ignorance as smokers absolutely know that tobacco will have a negative impact on them, but they find it difficult to abandon cigarettes. Since there is evidence that anti-smoking strategies such as the use of warnings and disgusting images are ineffective in smoking cessation, the government should engage smokers in the preparation and implementation of public health campaigns and policies.


Using the new look plain packaging of cigarettes does not decrease the rate of smoking (Rosenberg, 2016). The packets are not plain since they contain scary images of the effects of smoking on other people, for instance, pictures of cancer patients in their last hours of life, heart illness, lung diseases, and rotting skin tissue. Directing cigarette companies to use such images was possibly the first time that the government needed marketers to employ packaging that drives away customers instead of appealing to them.

Although many people are still buying and smoking cigarettes regardless of the warnings and images, their use is a long-term approach whose impact will rise as brand connections fade with time, and the young generations grow up devoid of appealing promotional images. Smoking by adolescents has already been reduced significantly in most countries. As the policy’s effect on smoking develops with time, increasingly, many people will quit smoking, which will improve the public’s health.


Scary images, for example, the picture of a cigarette addict smoking through a surgical opening on the throat, presents a strong emotional blow to smokers. Although some researchers feel that issuing warnings with the help of garish images on cigarette packs effectively communicates the negative health effects of smoking, others are convinced that it is already too much and needless. However, this approach is likely to have a long-term positive impact. As the strategy’s impact on smoking increases with time, progressively, many people will stop smoking hence improving the public’s healthiness.


Cho, Y. J., Thrasher, J. F., Swayampakala, K., Yong, H. H., McKeever, R., Hammond, D., & Borland, R. (2016). Does reactance against cigarette warning labels matter? Warning label responses and downstream smoking cessation amongst adult smokers in Australia, Canada, Mexico, and the United States. PLoS One, 11(7), 1-16.

Clayton, R. B., Leshner, G., Tomko, R. L., Trull, T. J., & Piasecki, T. M. (2017). Countering craving with disgust images: Examining nicotine withdrawn smokers’ motivated message processing of anti-tobacco public service announcements. Journal of Health Communication, 22(3), 254-261.

Hunt, E. (2016). . The Guardian. Web.

Maynard, O. M., Brooks, J. C., Munafò, M. R., & Leonards, U. (2017). Neural mechanisms underlying visual attention to health warnings on branded and plain cigarette packs. Addiction, 112(4), 662-672.

Rosenberg, T. (2016). . The New York Times. Web.

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