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Placing graphic warnings on cigarette packs like in UK and Canada has ‘no effect’, study finds

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Placing graphic warnings on cigarette packs in America, such as in the UK and Canada, will have ‘no effect’ on smoking habits but will embarrass people for hiding their cigarettes, a new study finds.

Researchers from the University of California, San Diego, found that smokers who received packets with pictures of sick feet and throat cancer still smoked about 10 cigarettes a day.

But six in ten smokers admitted to hiding the packets at least part of the time, which was 50 percent more than the roughly 40 percent of people in America’s similar countries who reacted the same.

America mandated graphic warnings for cigarettes in 2009, in line with other countries like the UK and Canada, but the new designs have yet to appear on packaging, while the order is currently held up by legal challenges filed in tobacco industry courts.

Scientists at the University of California, San Diego, gave American smokers packs of cigarettes with graphical warnings and checked whether this made them more likely to hide the packs and quit smoking. Above is the picture of throat cancer

They found that graphical warnings - like the sick foot pictured above - had 'no effect' on the number of cigarettes they drank per day.

They found that graphical warnings – like the sick foot pictured above – had ‘no effect’ on the number of cigarettes they drank per day.

But the scientists did find that the packs caused six out of ten smokers to hide them, instead of the normal four out of ten.  Above is another graphic warning image of a baby

But the scientists did find that the packs caused six out of ten smokers to hide them, instead of the normal four out of ten. Above is another graphic warning image of a baby

Two other groups participating in the trial were given either blank cigarette packs (as shown above) or their normal ones.  They showed no change in smoking behaviour

Two other groups participating in the trial were given either blank cigarette packs (as shown above) or their normal ones. They showed no change in smoking behaviour

The graph above shows the proportion of smokers in each group who said they hid their packs in the three groups (yellow line).  Those who got Graphics Packs (GWL Pack) were more likely to hide their packs, but there was no change in the group getting standard US and blank packs

The graph above shows the proportion of smokers in each group who said they hid their packs in the three groups (yellow line). Those who got Graphics Packs (GWL Pack) were more likely to hide their packs, but there was no change in the group getting standard US and blank packs

dr. John Pierce, a public health expert who led the study, and others noted, “Incorporating graphic warnings on cigarette packs had no effect on smoking behavior.

†[However]repacking cigarettes with graphical warnings significantly increased the percentage of smokers who engaged in constipation at least part of the time, from 41 to 57 percent.’

Three-fifths of smokers with head and neck cancer continued to puff on cigarettes

Most smokers diagnosed with head and neck cancer were still smoking cigarettes two years after treatment, a study found last month.

Researchers from the University of Minnesota, in Minneapolis, followed 89 people over the age of 60 who smoked at least five cigarettes a day when they were diagnosed.

Of the 61 who were still alive two years after treatment, as many as 38 — or 60 percent — were still smokers.

The research team suggested that many did not quit smoking because they became ‘cold turkey’ at diagnosis — putting out all cigarettes — at risk of relapse. They called for smokers suffering from cancer to be offered counseling and medication to help them quit the habit.

Smokers with cancer were three times more likely to quit in the first six months after diagnosis than at any other time, they said.

In the study – published today in JAMA network opened — researchers recruited about 400 current smokers from the San Diego area.

The participants were about 40 years old on average and had no plans to quit smoking when they were enrolled.

A third received cigarettes in packs with the same graphic warnings as those in Australia for three months.

The others were sent either blank packages or those with the standard US labels on them.

Over the three-month study period, participants were asked to report each day whether they hid their cigarette packs “at least some of the time” and how many cigarettes they smoked.

The scientists then followed them for another nine months while using their normal cigarette packs.

In the group that received the graphic packs, the proportion they hid rose from four to six in ten.

But when they were allowed to buy their normal cigarette packs again, this dropped to four in ten.

In comparison, in the other two groups, about four in 10 participants said they hid their cigarette packs “at least part of the time” during the study.

Participants in the group that received graphical alerts smoked about 11 cigarettes a day at the start of the trial, which had dropped to nine by the end.

But scientists said this difference was not significant and was likely due to other factors.

In the other two groups, the number of cigarettes they consumed per day dropped from an average of 11 to 9.

The academics said their research still suggested graphical warnings should be used, as hiding cigarette packs makes it less likely that teens will smoke.

More than 120 countries are already forcing tobacco companies to put warnings about the side effects of smoking on their packages.

But a growing body of research suggests the warnings become less effective as smokers become too used to them.

A paper of 2019 found that about 36 percent of smokers in Canada — who started using the warnings two decades earlier — found them “not at all” or “minimally” effective in getting them to quit.

About 31 million Americans — or one in eight adults — smoke, estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest.

This number may now gradually increase, and cigarette sales rose about 0.4 percent last year for the first time in two decades.

There has also been an increase in the number of young Americans picking up vaping, with about 2.5 million using tobacco products by 2021.

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