Getting graphic to try to convince people to quit smoking

    It’s tricky trying to find the right levers to push smokers to quit.

    Tuesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will unveil graphic warning labels that could be added to cigarette packaging next year.

    States and cities are coming up with their own ideas.

    Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center tested some of the early packaging labels proposed by the FDA. Study leader Dan Romer says adding specific health-risk information, alongside the graphic images, was more motivating to some smokers.

    But, he says, shaming smokers is a risky approach.

    “So if you really rub their noses in it, they might have what’s called a defensive reaction. We didn’t see that a lot with the FDA labels.” He said. “They’re not that graphic.”

    Joseph Cappella is with Annenberg’s School for Communication. He says savvy smokers need either new information or old information presented in novel ways.

    Cappella says public service announcements [embedded below] can be very effective.

    Public Service Announcement: “When you smoke around your kids. Child’s voice: ‘I’m down to about a pack a day.’ It’s like they’re smoking. Secondhand smoke can hurt their lung growth and permanently damage lung function”

    Showing people smoking–even in a negative light–can backfire, Cappella said.

    “When smokers see smoking cues, that increases their urge to smoke. So I think you’d want to be very careful when you use smoking cues in antismoking advertising,” he said.

    Thomas Carr, who tracks tobacco-control laws for the American Lung Association, said some California towns now severely restrict the number and location of cigarette retail outlets.

    “If you do mapping of where a lot of the retailers are in cities, a lot of them are clustered around low-income neighborhoods,” he said. “It literally is a store that sells tobacco products on every corner.”

    The Philadelphia Department of Health says 50 percent of city smokers have tried to quit in the past year. To help motivated smokers, the department has given out free nicotine patches and offered advice through “quitlines.”

    WHYY/NewsWorks is hosting “Smoke Signals,” a series of five community forums to gather public input about ideas for limiting tobacco use. The first forum will be held from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, June 28, at Pinn Memorial Baptist Church, 2251 N. 54th St., West Philadelphia. Trained moderators from the Penn Project for Civic Engagement will lead the session. The forum is funded through the city Department of Health. The public is invited, but advance registration is requested. To register, e-mail or call 215-898-1112.

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