Worth a Thousand Words
Graphic health warning labels (HWL) are more effective than textual ones, especially in the lower income population where smoking rates are highest and health literacy is lowest. Graphic HWLs were due to be implemented on cigarette packs in 2012 but the tobacco industry, citing the violation of free speech, has successfully litigated against this. For the study, which included 1,000 adult smokers from low and middle income areas, a control group rated 4 text only HWLs while an experimental group rated 9 graphic HWLs. Both groups assessed their reactions for credibility, relevance and effectiveness. Pictorial HWLs proved to be significantly more effective than text only ones for smokers with low health literacy whereas both types of HWLs proved effective in those with high health literacy.
Want to Convey Health Risks
By the fall of 2012, one of nine new graphic warnings will have to fill the top half of both sides of all cigarette packs and 20 percent of all ads in the U.S. They were issued by the FDA and include rotting and diseased gums and teeth, a smoker with a tracheotomy, a dead smoker, and a mom and baby surrounded in smoke. Phrases will accompany they images such as "Smoking can kill you" and "Cigarettes cause cancer." Along with the images and phrases, the national quit smoking hotline will also be on the label. The FDA believes the labels will "clearly and effectively convey the health risks of smoking" which are believed to kill about 443,000 Americans annually. Canada created similar labels in 2000 in addition to other measures to control tobacco use and saw smoking rates decline.
Overall Reduction in Risk
Two large studies looking at the link between a class of drugs known as 5-alpha reductase inhibitors that treat enlarged prostates and the small increase in the development of aggressive prostate cancer have the FDA calling for manufacturers to add the risk to the warning label. The studies examined the drugs Proscar (finasteride), Avodart and Jalyn. Propecia, low dose Proscar, treats hair loss in men and was not part of either study but will have the risk added to its label as well. Studies show a 24 percent risk in the chance of developing low-grade cancer and a one percent increase in high-grade disease. While many experts agree that these drugs reduce the risk overall, Dr. Anthony D’Amico said, "I think that the warning is appropriate. The risk is very small, but not zero."