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‘If I hadn’t seen this picture, I'd be smoking’—perceptions about innovations in health warnings for cigarette packages in Brazil: a focus group study


Objective To investigate the perceptions of young people and adults, smokers and non-smokers about the current set of innovations introduced in 2018 into the Brazilian tobacco products’ health warnings.

Methods Twenty focus groups were conducted in five state capitals in Brazil. The participants (n=163) were segmented by smoking status, age (15–17 years, 18–55 years) and social grade (C, D–E classes) to examine cigarette packaging and explore the participants’ perceptions of health warnings.

Results Health warnings capture attention, eliciting apprehension, fear, disgust and concern about the negative consequences of cigarette consumption. The 2018 Brazil health warnings are spontaneously recalled by participants, even without the presence of cigarette packages. However, the analysis also reveals the challenges of overcoming communication barriers and distorted interpretations, especially among smokers. The inclusion of direct and provocative stimuli, such as the use of the word ‘you’, attracts attention and creates more proximity to the recipient of the message. The results also highlight the interest and fear elicited by warnings on toxic constituents and the importance of using contrasting colours in warnings, which differentiate them from the colours of cigarette packs.

Conclusion Introducing innovative components in health warnings can catch consumers’ attention but considering that the interviewees encountered difficulties interpreting textual warnings about toxic constituents in cigarettes, the study reinforces the importance of adopting direct language and pictures, instead of text, which can visually transmit the warning messages and the use of specific wording that generates proximity between the emitter and receiver.

  • packaging and labelling
  • advertising and promotion
  • denormalisation
  • prevention

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.

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