Unlike usual warnings, the inserts proposed by the UK would contain positive messages encouraging smokers to quit.
The UK is considering inserting health information inside cigarette packets in the hope of putting consumers off smoking and a tobacco inserts consultation was open until October 10th. Canada and Israel have already implemented similar schemes, and Australia is considering it.
Experts in the field are generally doubtful about the effectivity of such measures. When last June, Health Canada announced a new requirement for tobacco manufacturers to display these warnings directly on individual cigarettes. Prof. David Sweanor, a Canadian tobacco harm reduction (THR) expert, expressed his skepticism, stating that fear-based messages, without practical and effective ways to reduce risks, are widely recognized as ineffective.
However the UK may be taking the initiative a step further by mentioning the relative safety of vaping products, therefore encouraging smokers to switch from cigarettes to the safer alternatives. Moreover, the Department of Health and Social Care’s proposed inserts aim to contain positive messages encouraging smokers to quit, whilst directing them to sources of advice and support.
Switching from fear-based messages to motivational ones
Research has consistently shown that positive health messages tend to be more effective than negative ones, as they inspire and encourage better behaviors. Emphasizing the benefits of healthy choices and framing messages in a positive light, such as highlighting the rewards of good habits, tends to motivate individuals more than warnings or negative consequences.
The inserts’ initiative is part of the UK’s larger goal of becoming smoke-free by 2030 and alleviating the burdens associated with smoking. Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said that smoking places a momentous load on the NHS, the economy, and individual health, leading to various health issues and economic losses. “By taking action to reduce smoking rates and pursuing our ambition to be Smokefree by 2030, we will reduce the pressure on the NHS and help people to live healthier lives,” he added.
Discussing the initiative, the UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) said it has long advocated for such health information inserts as part of its Blueprint for Better Regulation for the vaping industry. A report by the group also suggested the need for informative messages on vape packaging so as to help bridge the misinformation gap about vaping’s relative safety compared to smoking. This messaging could include statements such as “Switching completely from smoking to vaping will reduce harms to your health.”
The UKVIA also recommended that the government could consider approving a set of “switching messages” that vape brands could use on various media platforms, especially targeting older smokers who rely on traditional media for information.
On another note..
In other news, a recent study examined how different e-liquid packaging may impact youth interest and perceptions of harm. Analyzing data from over 13,000 young people aged 16 to 19 from England, Canada, and the United States, the research used a between-subject experiment with three different types of packaging.
The findings indicated that compared to branded e-liquid packaging, youth showed less interest in trying e-liquids in white or olive standardized packs. Moreover, more teens inaccurately perceived standardized packs as equally or more harmful than smoking. This led to the conclusion that standardized vape packaging could reduce interest in trying vaping products among 16- to 19-year-olds.