Strong message a must to help stub out smoking

DUBAI — Mild labels will not help people quit smoking, according to smokers interviewed by health authorities during the pre-testing of tobacco warning images and labels in the UAE.


Asma Ali Zain

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Published: Thu 19 Aug 2010, 12:54 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 11:13 AM

“Only strong emotional messages will be needed to achieve such an effect,” said smokers in a focus group of 128 people selected to take part in a qualitative study to pre-test 24 pictorial warning labels before the messages could be approved by local health authorities.

“Based on these findings we approved five images that will be used on all tobacco products in the country,” said Dr Wedad Al Maidoor, head of the UAE National Committee for Tobacco Control at the Ministry of Health (MoH).

The by-law on packaging and warnings labels is expected to be passed by the year-end, following which, tobacco companies will be given six months to change the packaging of their products, said Dr Wedad.

“We have restrictions and therefore only certain kind of pictures can be used currently,” she said while commenting on the reactions of smokers interviewed. “We hope to make the message stronger in the future since we are allowed to change the pictures after every two years.”

The research was done during May-June last year in Abu Dhabi in coordination with the Abu Dhabi Health Authority, John Hopkins University and the MoH. Participants were selected from a mix of urban and suburban residents, smokers, non-smokers, male and female youngsters, and adults.

The images and corresponding health messages were designed into a mock label for cigarette packages and were affixed to cigarette packs using a variety of brands to approximate the post-implementation design. Participants voted for the picture they thought was the best to pass on the strongest message with pictures such as a father and child, sick young man in an intensive care unit and five others each receiving more than 10 votes.

Both smokers and non-smokers agreed that smoking is unhealthy and a bad habit but smokers refused to admit that this is an addiction. All interviewees thought that people smoke because of one or more of the following reasons — to socialise, entertainment with friends, relief from stress, to improve mood.

“How can I think without smoking?” was a response from a young urban male smoker from the Higher Colleges of Technology. Participants also said that some of the images addressed certain specific groups such as children, non-smokers (images depicting passive smoking), pregnant women, and women (effects of smoke on women’s skin).

Some images were considered effective for all age groups such as a heart strangled with a cigarette, affected lungs and the cigarette with a snake.

Participants also said that the images should be distributed as print material in hospitals, clubs, cafes, schools, universities and malls.

More news from