Blind faith in warnings

| July 9, 2018

Reports in Australia based on a study published in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) raise some interesting questions about smokers’ thinking; or perhaps about the way that anti-tobacco operatives think that smokers think.

According to a story by Tegan Taylor for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the MJA study asked 1,800 Australians about whether they thought smoking increased the risk of 23 conditions shown to be associated with tobacco use, such as lung cancer, stroke and diabetes.

While more than eight in 10 participants knew lung, throat and mouth cancers, heart disease and emphysema were linked to smoking, a much smaller proportion were aware it was associated with erectile dysfunction, female infertility, diabetes and liver cancer.

Dr. Michelle Scollo of Cancer Council Victoria, which ran the study, was quoted as saying the results of the study showed the current warning labels were doing their job, and that it might be time to expand them.

“It was predictable and pleasing that smokers knew about the health effects that have been highlighted in the current sets of warnings and media campaigns,” Scollo said.

But this seemed not to be the case entirely. According to the story, which was illustrated – perhaps ironically – with a huge picture apparently of a Department of Health and Ageing mock-up of a cigarette pack showing a current graphic health warning in which somebody’s eye was being held open with a metal instrument and that bore above the picture the legend: SMOKING CAUSES BLINDNESS, blindness was one of conditions people were least likely to associate with an increased risk caused by smoking.

Scollo went on to say that fewer than half of the people who responded to the study realised smoking could reduce fertility, something that could have a major impact on the course of people’s lives. “There’s a lot that people need to appreciate,” she was quoted as saying.

The current set of graphic warning labels have been in place since 2012 and Scollo hopes the results of the study will lead to an expanded campaign including new graphic warning labels, showing more of smoking’s health risks.

“People need continuous reminders of these sort of things if they’re going to remember them but I don’t see why we need to be limited to just 14 warnings,” she said.

“I think we need as many warnings as we need to adequately warn people about the risks they face.”

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Category: Breaking News, Packaging, Regulation

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