Title: Pictorial health warnings and wear-out effects: evidence from a web experiment in 10 European countries
Citation: TOBACCO CONTROL vol. 28 no. e1 p. e71-e76
Publication Year: 2019
JRC N°: JRC112917
ISSN: 0964-4563 (online)
URI: https://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/handle/JRC112917
DOI: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2018-054402
Type: Articles in periodicals and books
Abstract: Objective - This paper examines whether there are possible wear-out effects associated with repeated exposure to pictorial health warnings on tobacco products. Wear-out effects can be general, i.e., people get used to the presence of pictorial warnings in general, or specific to the content of the warnings (i.e., the images used). Distinguishing between these two types of wear-out is important for understanding how to maintain the effectiveness of health warnings over time. Methods - This study uses data from a web-experiment carried out in 10 European countries. Participants were exposed in a random order to a series of health warnings and reported for each of them their reactions. Using these evaluations of the effectiveness of the health warnings and country variations in health warning legislation, we are able to test whether warning pictures are subject to general and/or specific wear-out effects. Results - Responses are stronger to combined text+picture warnings than to text-only warnings. This effect is lower for smokers living in countries where combined warnings were already in place at the time of the experiment, compared to smokers residing in countries where text-only warnings were in use. This result, observed for combined warnings with new pictures, is in line with the presence of general wear-out effects. Combined warnings with an unknown pictorial content are more effective than those including pictorial warnings already in use, suggesting that specific wear out effects are also at play. Conclusions - These findings strengthen the evidence that pictorial health warnings are an effective tool for tobacco control policies and suggest that, even in the presence of a general wear-out effect among smokers, periodically introducing new pictures helps to maintain warning effectiveness over time.
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