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Article | Young Adult Smokers’ and Prior-Smokers’ Evaluations of Novel Tobacco Warning Images

This study compared novel and traditional on-pack warnings as a trigger to prompt smoking cessation among young adults.

Warning labels have traditionally depicted graphic health consequences of smoking but evidence that young adults rationalise and reject health warnings suggests a wider array of messages could elicit stronger cessation responses.



On-pack warning labels represent a very cost-effective means of communicating with smokers, who potentially see warnings each time they retrieve a cigarette. Warning labels have traditionally depicted graphic health consequences of smoking but emerging evidence suggests the distal consequences shown may prove less effective in prompting cessation among young adults. We used a novel micro-survey approach to compare novel and traditional warnings, and provide an empirical foundation for a larger study.


We recruited 4649 male and 2993 female participants aged 18–34 from Google Consumer Survey’s Australian panel of Android mobile phone users. A screening question resulted in a sample comprising 3183 daily, non-daily, and former smokers. Twenty images corresponding to social and health risks, tobacco industry denormalization, and secondhand smoke (SHS) were tested in paired comparisons where respondents selected the image they thought most likely to prompt cessation.


Irrespective of smoking status, respondents rated messages featuring harm to children as most effective and industry denormalization messages and adult SHS warnings as least effective. Within smoker groups, daily smokers rated social concerns more highly; non-daily smokers were more responsive to SHS messages, and former smokers saw intimacy and cosmetic effects warnings as more effective than other groups.


While preliminary, the findings support emerging evidence that more diverse warning images may be required to promote cessation among all smoker sub-groups. Warnings depicting
harm to vulnerable others appear to hold high potential and merit further investigation.


Healey, B., & Hoek, J. (2015). Young Adult Smokers ‘and Prior-Smokers ‘Evaluations of Novel Tobacco Warning Images. Nicotine & Tobacco Research, ntv041.

The full article can be viewed in Nicotine and Tobacco by clicking here.

For more information please contact:
Janet Hoek
University of Otago


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