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Cigarette Warning Labels Can Cause a Smoker to Quit: The Bigger the Better

First Posted: Jul 10, 2014 12:15 PM EDT

What do you think of cigarette warning labels? Are they effective, and how effective are they? Apparently, they can influence a smoker to try to quit even when a smoker is trying to avoid seeing the labels. The findings reveal that the bigger the label is, the better.

In order to find out about the impacts of labels, the researchers conducted telephone surveys of over 5,000 smokers in the United States, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom from 2007 to 2009. They then followed up with the participants one year later. The smokers answered questions about how many cigarettes they smoked a day and how often they noticed warning labels on cigarette packages.

"Warning labels vary widely from country to country but it's clear that once people see the labels, the same psychological and emotional processes are involved in making people consider quitting smoking," said Hua-Hie Yong, one of the researchers, in a news release. "This just goes to prove the idea that the more one tries not to think of something, the more one tends to focus on it."

In fact, the researchers found that for smokers who said they paid attention to the lables, simply seeing them was enough to make them think about the health risks of smoking. This, in turn, made them less likely to smoke a cigarette. Those who tried to avoid the labels by covering them up also reported thinking often about the health risks and about quitting.

The findings reveal that since noticing warnings may be the first step toward getting smokers to quit, it might be best to incorporate larger labels on cigarette packages.

The findings are published in the journal Health Psychology.

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