How does the visual communication of cigarette warning labels matter? An investigation of the effectiveness of different frames and pictorial warnings labels on cigarette package’

Sze Hang Kwok, G.K.Y. Tang

Research output: Unpublished conference presentation (presented paper, abstract, poster)Conference presentation (not published in journal/proceeding/book)Academic researchpeer-review


The use of pictorial warnings on cigarette package is one of the tools in the overall strategy of smoke prevention of many governments. There is a wide range of research on the effectiveness of cigarette warning labels. In regard to pictorial warnings, most of the research focuses on the technical details of the pictures, including the impact of size of picture, comparison between text and picture, and comparison between colourful and black and white pictures (Hammond 2014). The other components of visual communication are seldom investigated. However, the approach of visual communication is the key to whether a message can be delivered effectively through pictures. To address the importance of the approach to visual communication, this paper attempts to examine the effectiveness of different visual communication of pictorial warnings, as well as to test the factors behind the impact of the pictures.

In the case of visual communication on cigarette package, to what extent pictorial warning labels are effective in persuading smokers to quit smoking or smoke less is a widely studied topic. With findings from a questionnaire survey (N=303), this research compares the effectiveness of pictures with or without humanization of images. The result shows that, even though pictorial warnings of fear appeal are still the most powerful, text-only messages can be more effective than pictorial warnings for the second-hand smoke frame. Secondly, for the pictorial warning of fear appeal, pictures without humanization are more effective than those with humanization. But for pictures of the second-hand smoke frame, humanization can enhance the effectiveness of the warning. Thirdly, this study tests the effect of “frame invalidation” to explain the factors behind the effectiveness of cigarette warning labels. This research reveals that the cigarette warning labels are less effective for smokers and people with more smoker friends.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019
EventThe 7th International Conference on Typography & Visual Communication (ICTVC) - Patras, Patras, Greece
Duration: 19 Jun 201921 Jun 2019


ConferenceThe 7th International Conference on Typography & Visual Communication (ICTVC)


  • warning labels
  • cigarette package
  • smoke prevention
  • fear appeal
  • humanization

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