Smokers and non-smokers alike know for a fact that smoking cigarettes is indeed dangerous to one’s health. And yet, this doesn’t seem to stop people from doing so. A lot still find themselves wanting to take a drag, and despite smoking cessation measures, tobacco use is still one of the top causes of death around the globe every year.

This fact has prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to increase its campaign of educating people about the toxic chemicals found in tobacco products. One method the organization has pushed is to plaster huge Warnings with graphic images.

Are smokers really aware of the risks?

There are over 9,000 chemicals found in cigarette smoke and this includes more than 60 carcinogens. Ask this to adults in the U.S. and they can only name a few of them, such as nicotine and tar. To be fair, 9,000 is a lot, but even if one knows every single chemical found in tobacco, it’s still a big question in terms of whether or not this information is taken seriously.

With this in mind, a team of researchers at the University of South Carolina, spearheaded by Yoojin Cho, looked into the efficacy of warnings in cigarette packs, as this is the primary way smokers obtain information on the chemicals found in tobacco products.

Graphic images on cigarette packages

According to the team, graphic warnings are more effective than text-only warnings, because they are far more attention-grabbing and will more than likely encourage one to quit. In Cho’s report published in The Conversation, he cited a clinical trial indicating how pictorial warnings made 40 percent of adult smokers want to quit smoking.

Alternatively, warnings through text accounted for 34 percent. Cho acknowledged the fact that the difference is quite minimal, but he pointed out that “the difference is still meaningful given that warnings can reach a large number of people.”

The findings of the randomized clinical trial were the basis for WHO to recommend graphic warnings in cigarette packages, which resulted to many countries implementing it, including Australia, Thailand, India, Nepal, and the Philippines.

The U.S. is not included on the list.

Over the years, pictorial warnings have gotten bigger, but the U.S. has maintained its text-only warning labels since 1984, Cho’s report noted. There are four different kinds of warning labels in packages in America, but only one of those labels cite a harmful chemical, which is carbon monoxide.

Cho and his team call for a change to warnings in the U.S, his study concluded. If graphic images are an effective way of encouraging people to preserve health, then it’s clear the U.S. needs to follow suit. “Our research shows it would be beneficial to include more descriptive information about toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke in U.S. warnings,” Cho wrote. "Large, graphic and often-rotated warnings would be ideal, as we have learned from other countries."