“Tactics like making the cigarettes themselves unappealing could be an effective way of doing this,” said Linda Bauld, Professor at University of Edinburgh.
The researchers found that smokers felt the innovative approach has the potential to discourage smoking among young people, those starting to smoke and non-smokers.
Participants felt that a warning on each cigarette would prolong the health message as it would be visible when taken from a pack, lit, left in an ashtray, and with each draw, thus making avoidant behaviour more difficult.
The visibility of the warning to others was perceived as off-putting for some because it was associated with a negative image.
Within several female groups, the warnings were viewed as depressing, worrying and frightening, suggesting that people would not feel good smoking cigarettes displaying a warning.
The study canvassed the opinion of 120 smokers, aged 16 and older, in 20 focus groups held in Edinburgh and Glasgow in 2015.
Within every group, participants felt that warnings on individual cigarettes would potentially have an impact on themselves or others.
“The consensus was that individual cigarettes emblazoned with warnings would be off-putting for young people, those starting to smoke, and non-smokers,” said study lead researcher Crawford Moodie.
“This study suggests that the introduction of such warnings could impact the decision-making of these groups. It shows that this approach is a viable policy option and one which would – for the first time – extend health messaging to the consumption experience,” Moodie added.