Graphic images on cigarette packs may encourage smokers to quit

Graphic images on cigarette packs may encourage smokers to quit

When smokers see disturbing images on cigarette pack labels they are more likely to quit, a new study suggests. This happens because graphic images activate parts of the brain crucial for quitting smoking.

The results were published in the journal Addictive Behaviors Reports.

The researchers conducted brain scans on 19 young adult smokers. They showed them non-graphic and disturbing graphic images accompanied by the text: “WARNING: Cigarettes cause cancer.” One image, for example, included an open mouth with rotten teeth and a tumor on the lower lip.

The researchers said that seeing the graphic pictures triggered activity in areas of the brain involved in emotion, decision-making and memory.

“Experiences that have a strong emotional impact tend to impact our decision-making,” said study co-lead author Adama Green, a cognitive neuroscientist at the Georgetown University Medical Center and the Truth Initiative in Washington, D.C.

More than 15 years ago, Canada was the first country to introduce graphic warnings on the outside of cigarette packages. An earlier study showed that this approach was effective at reducing the country’s smoking rate.

Several years ago, the use of graphic warning labels was mandated by law to appear on cigarette packs in the United States, but this requirement was later invalidated by a federal appeals court.

“Regulators can and should use this research to craft more effective warning labels and messages to smokers that both deliver facts about the negative effects of smoking and trigger thoughts and actions that move smokers toward quitting,” said study senior author Raymond Niaura, director of science at the Schroeder Institute for Tobacco Research and Policy Studies at the Truth Initiative.

Dr. Axel Joob, a thoracic surgeon and director of the Center for Thoracic Disease at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill., says that if you’d like to quit smoking, you should combine at least two of the following three things:

  1. Take an oral drug or a smoking cessation aid, such as chantix or wellbutrin.
  2. Use a nicotine replacement patch or gum.
  3. Visit a smoking cessation clinic where people get together to support each other in an effort to quit smoking.

If you are over 55 and have been smoking cigarettes for more than 30 years, or you quit within the last 15 years after smoking for 30 years, you should consider having a lung cancer screening. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States and worldwide, because those affected usually do not have symptoms until the cancer is already at an advanced stage. This reduces options for treatment.

If you live in the Chicagoland area and are seeking support resources, call the Lutheran General Cancer Institute at 847.723.5864 for more information.

Photo Credit: CNN

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Sonja Vojcic
Sonja Vojcic

Sonja Vojcic, health enews contributor, is a marketing manager at Advocate Health Care in Downers Grove, Ill. She has several years of international public relations and marketing experience with a Master’s degree in Communications from DePaul University. In her free time, Sonja enjoys spending time with her family, travelling, and keeping up with the latest health news and fashion trends.