(Photo : Reuters)
A time is coming when it'll no longer just be about what cigarettes say about you, but what they say to you.
Researchers in Scotland say they've created talking packs of cigarettes --- verbal messages that warn smokers of the risks to their health when they open the packets to light up.
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The invention is being hailed as the next greatest advancement in the ongoing campaign against tobacco use
A team of scientists at the University of Sterling's Center for Tobacco Control Research set out to test if promotional strategies similar to those used to entice consumers to buy smokes could also be used to persuade people to kick their habits.
The researchers rigged packs with two different digital recordings that played alongside the gory images and text warnings that are already printed on packs. One message offered smokers a phone number for advice on quitting smoking and the other warned that smoking reduces fertility.
The verbal messages, employed with the same idea as so-called singing birthday cards which play a tune or a message when opened, were initially tested on young women between the ages of 16 and 24, which represent one of the groups with persistently high smoking rates.
A notable percentage of study subjects indicated they found the messages about fertility "hard-hitting" and "off-putting," researchers reported, while girls aged 16-17 in particular said the messages prompted them to indeed consider giving up cigarettes.
Other study participants, however, explained the messages could lead them to quitting or cutting back simply because they were so annoying, although one woman suggested smokers could "get used to it. Once you start smoking you just ignore it."
"It is possible in the future we may see packs that play music or talk, so we wanted to see if that could be used for our purposes," researcher Crawford Moodie told the Daily Mail. "With the talking packs, people thought they were really annoying, but that is a really good way to capture attention. It created a lot of interest."
Said Sheila Duffy, chief executive of Scotland-based Action on Smoking and Health: "The tobacco industry buys a great deal of creative expertise to market its addictive and lethal products to new consumers, mainly young people...I welcome the suggestion that we get more creative to put forward images of good health and freedom from addiction as alternatives to tobacco and that we start requiring tobacco companies to present the truth to their consumers in more eye-catching ways."
On the other hand, Simon Clark, director of the smoker's lobby group Forest, was quoted saying by the Daily mail that he "can't imagine anything more attractive to children than a pre-recorded message...The more gruesome the message the more enticing it will be. That's why horror films are popular with teenagers."
And if the talking cigarette pack somehow prove a hit with the public, Clark said, "I look forward to similar warnings when you open a bottle of beer of unwrap a bar of chocolate."