Mock up products were used to test the impact and understandability of graphic health warnings across various pack sizes. The testing involved two alternatives for small rectangular shaped tobacco products and two alternatives for small square shaped tobacco products. Three alternatives for round tobacco tin packs were tested. Two types of packaging for single sale cigars were also mocked up, and included an image of a cigar tube, and a cigar bag. Lastly the research also tested a graphic health warning on a bidi pack.

Rectangular packaging

Figure 1.4.1: Health warnings on small rectangular packaging

Image A: Images of health warnings: Image of lung cancer (front) and written warning (back).

Image B: Images of smaller health warnings: Image of lung cancer and text warning (front) and written warning (back).

Use of the image only on the front face of the packaging (pack A), while uncomfortable to look at for smokers, was not as easily comprehensible as the combination of warning message and image on pack B. Smokers find the image difficult to understand, and therefore the health message, without the use of a warning statement. The warning statement provides the extra direction to ensure the message is able to be understood at a glance, rather than a standalone image which may need deciphering. The clear message provided by the writing interprets the message for smokers as opposed to them having to do it themselves.

Message impact and understanding would be further increased by making use of the back face that contains the warning message on red background with the explanatory message (pack A), as opposed to just the explanatory message by itself. The explanatory message by itself is not likely to encourage readership and, more importantly, by itself it provides a reprieve from a health warning on the pack as there is a need to engage with it to get the message. This would also replicate the layout and format of cigarette packaging. Given that many cigarillo / little cigar smokers are also cigarette smokers, similar packaging could result in the products being no longer so differentiated by the smokers in terms of health consequences.
Top of page

Square packaging

Figure 1.4.2: Health warnings on small square packaging

Figure F.
Square Tin Front
Image F front: Health warning featuring image of lung cancer and text.
Square Tin Back Option 1
Image F back: Health warning with red and black backgrounded text.

Figure G.
Square Tin Front
Image G front: Health warning featuring image of lung cancer and text.
Square Tin Back Option 2
Image G back: Health warning with Image of lung cancer and small text.

The only difference in the square packaging was the use of either a repeat of the image on the back of the pack (pack G) or a repeat of the warning message on red background (pack F). Pack F, with the warning message on red background on the back, had greater impact on smokers.

The back of pack G was seen to repeat the message on the front, with the focal point still being the image. This results in the explanatory message becoming very recessive, while at the same time the repeat of the image not offering any new information to what was provided on the front. In contrast, the back of pack F offers a difference through use of the red background, resulting in the message seen as being delivered differently despite being the same message as on the front. Use of the warning message on red background on the back is also consistent with warnings on cigarette packs.
Top of page

Round packaging

Figure 1.4.3: Health warnings on the front of small round packaging

C, D, E. Front
Image C, D, E front: Image of three variations of 'smoking causes blindness' pack warning.

Lack of a warning message on pack D to accompany the visual resulted in this being the least effective design in regards to communication of a health warning. While the image is highly noticeable, it did not offer any information by itself and there was some confusion as to what the actual product was for those unfamiliar with tobacco in tins. Use of the warning message along with the image on packs C and E ensured that the message was easily understood. In addition, the clear statement of the ‘smoking causes...’ ensured that the product is understood to be a tobacco product.

Overall, pack C was seen to have more professional design elements as the health warning had been designed to suit the round shape of the tin. This more professional look was seen to be associated with more favourable product attributes, such as higher quality tobacco. In contrast, pack E was seen to resemble having simply had a sticker put on a fairly drab looking tin, with the result being that the product was less appealing and indicative of lower quality tobacco. This suggests that the design of pack E may contribute to lowering the appeal of the packaging of tobacco tins compared to the other alternatives.

Figure 1.4.4: Health warnings on the back of small round packaging

C, D, E. Back
Image C, D, E back: Three images of text warnings for 'smoking causes blindness'.

A similar rationale was applied to the back of the tins. The designs of both packs C and D are seen to have higher production values, contributing to the perception of favourable product attributes when compared to other design features. Although the explanatory message on pack E has the smallest font and as a result is the least inviting for smokers to read, the overall design is the least appealing for smokers. The perceived lower professionalism of the warning label design, combined with the drab dark brown colours of the package increase the negative perception of the product, comparative to the other designs tested. The warning message is still clearly communicated via the text on red background.
Top of page

Health warnings on single sale cigar packaging

Figure 1.4.5: Images of warnings for cigar tubes and resealable bags

Image: Images of warnings for cigar tubes and resealable bag featuring picture of lung cancer.

The health warning on the cigar tube had more impact on the less frequent premium cigar smokers compared with the frequent premium cigar smokers. Infrequent premium cigar smokers tended to have less familiarity and knowledge of the different cigar products and rely more on the packaging as an influence on product appeal. Compared to current single cigar tube packaging which has no health warning, the impact of a health warning is considerable for these smokers. The presence of the health warning detracts from the sense of occasion, and minimises the sense of ceremony that less frequent premium cigar smokers experience when buying cigars.

Use of a graphic health warning on the bags will be noticed by all premium cigar smokers as it will be a significant change from current packaging. The size of the graphic health warning on the bag will ensure that the message is able to be understood easily. Immediate understanding is highly important to achieve with graphic health warnings on cigar bags, as single sale cigar smokers will have less overall exposure to the warnings than cigarette or cigarillo / little cigar (pack) smokers to the warning on these other products. A cigarette smoker is exposed to the warning each time they remove a cigarette from the pack. In contrast, a single sale cigar smoker will remove the product from the bag for storage in a humidor or immediate use shortly after purchase.

Top of page