No Effect of Graphic Posters on Purchase of Cigarettes or Smoking Cessation

Anti-smoking poster

A research published online in the journal Tobacco Control contains the data of an analysis directed to see the effectiveness of New York City’s policy of demanding graphic anti-smoking posters at point-of-sale at all tobacco retail outlets. The demand that came into force late in 2009 was designed to reduce smoking rates by promoting smoking cessation at the point of sale.

The research included two rounds of interviews led among customers of retail cigarettes stores: one round in the beginning (before the implementation of the policy) and one round 9 months later.

Anti-smoking poster

Graphic anti-smoking poster

The influence of the signs on smoking cessation was estimated by asking recent quitters: “During this visit to the cigarette store or over the past 30 days, to what extent did these health warning signs help you to stop smoking or stay quit?”

Customers were also asked: ““During this visit to the store, did these warning smoking signs prevent you from buying cigarettes when you were about to purchase them?”

The major results of the research were as follows:

1. There was no difference across poll in the warning signs encouraging recent quitters to stay quit.

2. Differences in signs impelling smokers not to buy cigarettes achieved only borderline significance (15% to 8%). More participants said that they were persuaded not to purchase cigarettes before the graphic posters than after.

The research states these results: “The graphic smoking signs did not help recent quitters to stay quit or prevent smokers from buying cigarettes at the current visit to the store.”

Despite these negative results, the study made a conclusion that their results demonstrate that the implementation of signs was connected with a doubling in the awareness of health warning signs and an 11% rise in stimulating thoughts about smoking cessation.

The real question is whether the policy helped smokers to stop smoking and in accordance with this study, it did not.

This is yet another example of a research whose results are not in accordance with the reported research conclusion.

The final conclusion if the research is the following: “A policy obliging tobacco retailers to display graphic health warning signs raised awareness of health risks of smoking and stimulated thoughts about smoking cessation. Extra research was focused on evaluating the result of tobacco control measures in the retail sphere is necessary to provide further rationale for executing of these changes and countering legal challenges from the tobacco industry.”

This stated conclusion ignores the major results of the research. It ignores the fact that the research failed to reveal any effect of the warning signs on preventing the buying of cigarettes or leading to actual smoking cessation. Actually, the research did not provide evidence whatsoever of any impact on behavior.

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