Study: Nicotine warnings deter smokers from quitting

RESEARCH: Nicotine and addiction warnings on e-cigarettes are likely to lead to fewer quit attempts. This is according to a UK study in which smokers and non-smokers responded to alternative messages on e-cigarette packaging.
"A message about relative risks is more effective in encouraging quit attempts without attracting non-smokers," the researchers write.

Nicotine addiction warnings on e-cigarette packaging look the same across the EU. This is also the case in the UK, which transposed the EU Tobacco Directive into law before its withdrawal in 2020. Since the withdrawal, health researchers have begun a review of the effectiveness of the Tobacco Products Directive in reducing smoking in relation to the harm minimisation measures, which have also become part of the country's tobacco policy.

Compared different messages

Now researchers at South Bank University looked at how the EU-wide warnings on e-cigarette packs affect potential consumers. Both smokers and non-smokers took part in the study, where different messages were presented to participants. 

The researchers tested three different variants: the statutory message, an alternative message and no message at all. 

The statutory message under the TPD focuses on nicotine addiction sounds:
"This product contains nicotine which is a highly addictive substance"

The alternative message in the study included a comparison according to the harm minimisation principle:
"Using this product is much less harmful than smoking"

Nicotine warnings discourage even smokers

Non-smokers who saw the message that is legal under the EU Tobacco Directive perceived the risks and harmfulness of e-cigarettes to a greater extent than when they saw the alternative message. They were also less willing to try the product and less likely to accept the products in social settings. 

The results for smokers were basically the same. This group was also less likely to use e-cigarettes in a future quit attempt when they saw the EU-wide addiction message.

Harm minimisation message more effective

When the participants saw the alternative message, it turned out that non-smokers experienced basically the same thing as with the EU message, except that social acceptance was slightly higher. Smokers, on the other hand, reacted differently, both in terms of risk perception and willingness to test the products. Significantly more said they would consider using e-cigarettes in a future quit attempt.

"The alternative message had a potentially higher harm minimisation effect for smokers, compared to the tobacco control message. However, it did not appear to increase the risk of non-smokers becoming more interested in e-cigarettes than the EU regulated message," the researchers write.

Want to reduce smoking

The UK government, supported by the Department of Health, has decided to reduce smoking in the country to less than 5 per cent by 2030. To achieve this goal, the authorities are encouraging smokers to switch their nicotine source to less harmful alternatives, such as e-cigarettes. According to the UK Public Health Agency, the risks of nicotine use are dramatically reduced for those who switch from smoking to vejping.

More effective than nicotine medicines

The use of e-cigarettes has increased steadily in the country as smoking has declined from 20 per cent to 20 per cent 2011 to 11 per cent in 2022, according to a report from British Public Health Agency. This development was recently confirmed by ongoing systematic evaluation in which e-cigarettes have been shown to be significantly more effective in smoking cessation than traditional nicotine medicines. According to the authorities, e-cigarettes have become the most popular way to quit smoking in the country, at the expense of the use of nicotine medicines. At the same time, the number of quit attempts has steadily increased.

The message matters

According to the researchers, changing the messages on e-cigarettes could further increase the uptake of e-cigarettes among smokers. This is in contrast to the EU Directive's messages, which seem to reduce uptake in the target group.

"The alternative message may become an effective tool for harm minimisation without increasing uptake among non-smokers," the researchers write in their summary.

A total of 2495 (1283 smokers and 1212 non-smokers) participated in the study at South Bank University.

Communicating the relative health risks of E-cigarettes: An online experimental study exploring the effects of a comparative health message versus the EU nicotine addiction warnings on smokers' and non-smokers' risk perceptions and behavioural intentions.

2 Comments on “Studie: Nikotinvarningar avskräcker rökare från att sluta

  1. Yes, there is a frightening ignorance that nicotine is some kind of carcinogenic drug when in fact it is the tar that is. And the carbon monoxide is what essentially causes heart attacks and strokes. Some stoners think, for example, that the smoke from burning cannabis is somehow different from that from burning tobacco, which it is not. Again, it is very wise to get a vaporiser. Bizarrely, for example, a bar owner in Amsterdam is forbidden to allow cigarettes indoors, but perfectly OK with cannabis joints.

  2. Best survey in a long time. As a smoker, warnings do not work. If it's better with tape, it would be good if someone said so. Otherwise, the only thing left is to drive cannabis. For the sake of your lungs.
    Warnings are provocative. What is forbidden can be enticing for those of us with an addiction profile. Like an adventure. Not everything is rational. Nicotine patches are sterile and not very sexy. Which cig. is! You have to be addicted to something.

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