Printing “smoking kills” on individual cigarettes could help reduce the number of people lighting up, researchers have said.
A study by the University of Stirling examined smokers’ reactions to health warnings branded directly on to cigarettes, rather than messages appearing on packs only.
It found that the warnings were viewed as “depressing, worrying and frightening” and prolonged the message about the harms of smoking, the university said.
Cancer Research UK, which funded the study, said the findings suggested that making cigarettes look “unappealing” could be an effective way of cutting smoking rates.
Dr Crawford Moodie, who led the study, said: “The consensus was that individual cigarettes emblazoned with warnings would be off-putting for young people, those starting to smoke, and non-smokers.
“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.”
The study canvassed the opinion of 120 smokers, aged 16 and over, in 20 focus groups held in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Within every group, smokers felt that warnings on individual cigarettes would potentially have an impact on themselves or others, the University of Stirling said.
Participants felt that a warning on each cigarette would “prolong the health message” as it would be visible for longer, the university added.
Within several female groups, the warnings were viewed as “depressing, worrying and frightening”, suggesting people would be reluctant to smoke cigarettes displaying a warning, according to the study.
Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s prevention expert, said: “Too many young people are still taking up smoking.
“Government anti-smoking campaigns and tax rises on cigarettes remain the most effective methods to stop young people starting smoking, but we need to continue to explore innovative ways to deter them from using cigarettes to ensure that youth smoking rates continue to drop.
“This study shows that tactics like making the cigarettes themselves unappealing could be an effective way of doing this.”
The government has pledged to end smoking in England by 2030 as part of a range of measures to tackle the causes of preventable ill health.
In the UK, 14% of adults smoke, according to the Office for National Statistics.