Blackened lungs, aging skin, wrinkles, yellow teeth – these are all common images that define some of the negative symptoms of a smoking lifestyle. They have been used in anti-tobacco advertising to deter people from feeding their cigarette addiction.
A new Stirling University study published in the Tobacco Control journal found that images depicting negative aspects of smoking – such as diseased lungs – are not successful in keeping young people from puffing cigarettes.
The study reviewed 2,800 children – one in ten of the children were smokers, and the others were either non-smokers or kids who were ‘experimental’ smokers. Researchers analyzed data from the Youth Tobacco Policy Survey, and found that viewing disturbing images had no effect on 11 to 16-year-old smokers.
Young smokers in that age range were not any more likely to be affected by images than they were by text warnings. The images were released in the UK in 2008.
"Increasing the size of the warnings, or putting them on the front of the pack, will make no difference,” Simon Clark, director of Forest, a smokers’ group, told the BBC. "If you want to smoke you will smoke… If governments want to reduce youth smoking rates they should crack down on shopkeepers who sell cigarettes to children and tackle illicit trade.”
Dr. Crawford Moodie, the lead researcher of the study, believes the lack of efficacy in the images may be caused in part by people being desensitized by such imagery. “Other countries regularly change their warnings,” he said. “I think if we rotated them here they would have more impact.”
According to the American Lung Association, 68 percent of current smokers began smoking when they were 18 or younger. Each day, 3,900 children under age 18 will experiment with cigarettes; around 950 of those will become regular smokers.
"People who begin smoking at an early age are more likely to develop a severe addiction to nicotine than those who start at a later age," the American Lung Association website says.
Smokers have an increased risk for the skin condition psoriasis, cancer, and heart disease. Some of the more visual side effects of heavy smoking include developing premature wrinkles, bags under your eyes, yellow teeth, and even thinning hair.