“Smoking kills” warnings on cigarette packets appeared in the United States in 1969, when the US Congress enacted a law requiring each pack to display: “Warning: The Surgeon General has determined that cigarette smoking is dangerous to your health » . The Surgeon General is equivalent to the US Secretary of Health.
Since then, happily, smoking has become much less popular in the United States – where its consumption has fallen by two-thirds – with similar results in many countries.
How much of this trend is related to health warnings, however, is unclear and research on the subject is limited. On the other hand, there is much to be said for the relative impact of “photo” warnings compared to plain text messages.
The results are all in favor of horrifying photos highlighting the terrible pathological effects of smoking, although these are not very effective in getting smokers to quit. The “bad guys” soon learn to ignore them, a wear-and-tear effect known to researchers.
Following the logical conclusion that if something isn’t working, we should push harder, many countries now require smoke alarm packages to cover most of the surface. Since 2016, the EU requires the warning (in Helvetica letters…) to cover at least 30% of the front and 40% of the back. Australia needs 80% of its total area to be dry and almost everywhere the trend is towards further extension.
It is clear that there is a physical limit to the available space in the packages to illustrate how harmful the content is. Fortunately, there is a solution, at least for now. This comes from Canada, where authorities have actually mandated that starting in 2023, every cigarette must carry its own (text) hazard warning. The exact phrase has yet to be decided, but according to Canadian Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Caroline Bennett, the most recognized plan for now is poison in every puff: “Poison in every puff.”
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