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Can Disturbing Graphics Scare People Off of Cigarettes?—Brainstorm Health

August 15, 2019, 9:56 PM UTC

Good afternoon, readers.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is going down a familiar path in its anti-smoking efforts—one that has been embraced by plenty of nations abroad. The idea? Slap graphic warning labels onto cigarette packs in an effort to discourage use.

If you’ve ever been to a corner store in Europe or other continents, you’ve probably encountered the gruesome packaging that goes onto packs of cigarettes. They can include graphic depictions of lungs decimated by smoke, or of people who have to harness breathing tubes because of their long-term cigarette use.

The point of the shock and awe tactics—which would also considerably increase the size of the warnings—is two-fold: Gross people out while also informing them.

“While most people assume the public knows all they need to understand about the harms of cigarette smoking, there’s a surprising number of lesser-known risks that both youth and adult smokers and nonsmokers may simply not be aware of,” said acting FDA commissioner Ned Sharpless in a statement.

But there’s another question… Just how effective are these warnings?

The World Health Organization (WHO) has a few nuanced points to make on that vary issue. “Taken as a whole, the research on pictorial warnings show that they are: (i) more likely to be noticed than text-only warning labels; (ii) more effective for educating smokers about the health risks of smoking and for increasing smokers’ thoughts about the health risks; and (iii) associated with increased motivation to quit smoking,” writes the agency.

So, the point seems to be that these graphics and warnings can be effective—depending on how they’re deployed. And, to date, the most effective anti-smoking efforts appear to stem from vice taxes and indoor smoking bans.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee, @the_sy_guy,


Nomad Health raises $34 million in new funding round. We've written previously about Nomad Health, the telemedicine startup aiming to bring the gig economy to health care. On Wednesday, the company—which allows short-staffed participating hospitals to hire part-time physicians and nurses across several specialties for temp work—announced that it raised another $34 million in financing. Nomad says it now helps facilitate jobs across some 4,000 U.S. health care facilities.


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