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Graphic Cig Pack Labels Make Smokers Think, Study Finds

FRIDAY, June 15 (HealthDay News) -- Graphic warning labels on cigarette packages boost the likelihood that people will think about the health risks associated with smoking, a new study has found.

The study included 200 current smokers who were randomly selected to view either a text-only warning label such as those used in the United States since 1985, or a graphic warning label that included an image of a hospitalized patient on a ventilator and a written warning with larger text. The graphic label was similar to what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is proposing be adopted in the United States.

After viewing the warning labels, the participants were asked to rewrite the text from memory in order to see how well they recalled the information. There was a significant difference between the two groups in their levels of correct recall -- 83 percent for the graphic-label group and 50 percent for the text-only group.

The study also found that the quicker a smoker looked at the large text in the graphic warning, and the longer they viewed the graphic image, the more likely they were to recall the information correctly, said the researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

The study was released online June 15, in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The findings suggest that drawing attention to the warning label can improve the recall of information and increase the chances that smokers will think about the risks of smoking, the researchers said.

"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 lead author Andrew Strasser, an associate professor in the psychiatry department, said in a Penn Medicine 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," he added.

More information

The American Cancer Society offers a guide to quitting smoking.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Penn Medicine, news release, June 15, 2012

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