Graphic warning labels decrease smoking in Canada, according to study


University study of Waterloo study shows warning labels on cigarette packaging have decreased smoking in Canada, but not all smokers agree.

In response to the study on labeling, Langara students have mixed reviews about the effectiveness of the graphic warning labels on cigarette packages.

The paper was a joint venture by the University of Waterloo and University of Illinois at Chicago. It shows that graphic warning labels on cigarette packs have led to a decrease in smoking rates in Canada of between 12 and 20 per cent over nine years.

Disturbing visual packaging  detours smokers

Michaela Smith, a creative writing student at Langara, said visual aids have a huge impact on her smoking habits.

“It’s not fun to buy a pack of smokes and see a really messed up mouth and a person with no hair,” she said. “I’ve been to Mexico and Cuba and they don’t have the images there, and I definitely smoked more when I was there, because you don’t have to see those images every time you take [your cigarette pack] out.”

She added that she used to smoke eight to 10 cigarettes a day, but has since cut down to three or four a day since seeing such images.

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Psychology student Josh Gautreau also thinks graphic images will deter some people from lighting up.

“I think that some people are sensitive and are off-put by those [images],” said Gautreau. “It’s a lot better than not having those images on there. They tug on the heart strings, I definitely don’t want that to be me in the future.”

However, Erin Quittenton doesn’t think the images work.

“It’s not going to affect me,” she said. “It won’t stop me. If they give it to me, I’ll still take it and I’m still going to smoke them,” said Quittenton.

Positive and influential action towards anti-smoking

History student Sean MacPherson said a positive campaign would be more effective in getting people to stop smoking.

“It’s not thinking about the fact that you’re going to die when you’re 60 from mouth cancer,” he said. “A better campaign could be like, ‘Life is so much better when you’re not smoking.’”

Geoffrey Fong, co-author of the paper and professor at the University of Waterloo, said graphic warning labels make the health risks of tobacco products more vivid.

Canada was the first country to implement graphic warning labels on cigarette cartons in 2001.

Reported by Kendra Wong

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