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Surprising Science

Gruesome Images Stop Smokers

In numerous health surveys around the world many smokers report that graphic images motivate them to quit. Non-smokers say they feel deterred from ever picking up a pack.

What’s the Latest Development?

The F.D.A. has brought new health warnings to packs of cigarettes for the first time in 25 years. “The nine pictures that must appear on all adverts and cigarette packages sold in the U.S. by September 2011 include a cancerous mouth with lesions and rotting teeth, a man smoking through a tracheotomy hole and a diseased lung. … ‘It’s been a long time in coming, says Roy Herbst of Yale University and chair of the American Association for Cancer Research’s Task Force on Tobacco and Cancer. ‘We hope they will dissuade people from buying and using cigarettes.'”

What’s the Big Idea?

While there are mixed results as to the deterrent effect of gruesome images on packs of cigarettes, the latest research seems to support the government’s new photographic health warnings. “According to Ellen Peters of Ohio State University, who conducted a 2007 study that found Canada’s morbid warning pictures would be effective in the U.S. too, the message is clear. ‘Graphic warning labels encourage negative emotional reactions to cigarettes and those emotions become associated with smoking cues,’ she says.”


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