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Reclaiming the value of pictorial health warning labels in Jordan


Background In Jordan, four non-graphic pictorial health warning labels (PHWLs) concerning a limited selection of tobacco-caused harms have been used since 2011; however, research suggests that they may be ineffective.

Objectives To explore Jordanian smokers’ reactions to novel PHWLs featuring various health themes and/or graphic and symbolic imagery and to discuss existing PHWLs in light of the novel PHWLs.

Methods We conducted 14 focus groups (FGs) with smokers who assessed 12 novel PHWLs and commented on four existing PHWLs. Data were analysed using an inductive approach.

Results Six themes emerged from the FG discussions: understanding the overall meaning of PHWLs, the impact of graphic images, magnitude and controllability of harm, personal or vicarious experiences, the futility of quitting and fatalism. PHWLs depicting graphic respiratory and oral tobacco-caused harms resonated with most smokers. Smokers also sought direct, harm-specific taglines when trying to understand the overall PHWL. Some smokers viewed the PHWLs as exaggerated, and while the majority acknowledged that smoking was harmful, they felt that PHWLs would not accomplish their goal of inducing quitting.

Conclusions Our findings support the use of graphic imagery to communicate tobacco-caused harms (particularly respiratory ones) and the use of specific taglines explaining the mechanism of harm depicted.

  • low/middle income country
  • packaging and labelling
  • public opinion
  • public policy

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