Tobacco Talks!


The latest thing in helping smokers to quit is “talking” cigarettes, it seems! Yes, you read that right. Or not so much cigarettes, as the cigarette packets. Scientists at Stirling University in Scotland have invented cigarette packs which, when opened, verbally warn the user about the dangers of smoking, such as how it affects fertility, and also give an advice-line number to call for help in quitting. It appears that these novel inventions work by fitting the packets with a playback unit chip and a voice recording inside which plays when opened, in the same manner as a talking or singing greeting card.

This research has been funded by the charity Cancer Research UK, who believe that this kind of strategy may effectively counteract the seductive marketing of the tobacco companies, in the design of their packets. A spokesman from the charity said that the appealing and colourful styling of the packs can distract smokers from the dangers, reducing the impact of the health warnings. The tobacco industry is apparently also considering talking packs, as part of their own marketing. Therefore the funded study aims to subvert this trick, and use it to put people off of smoking instead.

The researchers reported that in the test group of 50, the volunteers said that the packs were “attention-grabbing”, especially in the members aged between 16-24. The subjects said that they found that the message about reduced fertility did hit home, and made them think about quitting. Others said it may help to make them quit because the talking packs are so annoying! There was also a view among some that once the novelty had worn off, smokers would no longer take any notice, and the recorded warning would have no effect.

These new tactics have emerged, since the recent findings that outright smoking bans do not have the same deterrent effect as tax rises on cigarettes, even small rises, according to the results of a recent global study by the Georgetown Medical Centre in Washington. Researchers studied 41 countries between 2007 and 2010 and the impact of anti-smoking policies within these nations. They discovered that on average, based on the sales of cigarettes, the tax rises had more effect than the bans.

More trials with the talking packets are to be undertaken with other volunteer groups, targeting different demographics.  This type of research is definitely of the essence, as the Centre for Disease Control has found that 443,000 people die each year from smoking-related illnesses. Maybe quoting a statistic like that as part of the voice warning may have the most impact.

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