The United States is following the lead of other countries in cracking down on misleading cigarette packaging. More than a dozen nations have stringently regulated cigarette packaging for years, with some requiring gruesome images on the packaging.
Starting in 2012, U.S. cigarette makers may have to cover half the packages with more graphic warning labels and vivid images of the dangers of smoking. The FDA is still mulling which labels to choose.
"Despite the graphic warning labels, which will be great progress in educating consumers about the risks of smoking, there is still 50 percent of the pack that can be used to mislead consumers on the relative risks of their products," Bansal-Travers said.
Marketing experts agree that the new legislation may not keep the packages from conveying subtle but powerful messages about the cigarettes inside.
"Packaging is what sells the product at the point of purchase," said Jeremy Kees, an assistant professor of marketing at Villanova School of Business.
"Up to 70 to 80 percent of consumer decisions are actually made in the store at the point of purchase," Kees said. "Of course, advertising and other promotions are important, but the packaging is the unspoken salesperson for the product."
View the FDA's cigarette packaging proposal here.
SOURCES: Maansi Bansal-Travers, Ph.D., behavioral research scientist, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, N.Y.; Janet Hoek, Ph.D., professor, marketing, University of Otago, New Zealand; June 2011 American Journal of Preventive Medicine
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