INTRODUCTION In India there is insufficient knowledge of the risks associated with tobacco use. Increasing awareness of these risks is critical, with pictorial warnings on tobacco packs a cost-effective way to communicate this information. We explored perceptions of the current warning, ‘Tobacco causes cancer’, displayed on packs in India and four novel warnings about other potential impacts of tobacco use including social, financial, and environmental, but also complications with diabetes. As loose cigarette sales are common in India, we also explored perceptions of warnings on cigarette sticks. METHODS A cross-sectional survey of college students aged ≥18 years in Karnataka, India, was conducted between January 2019 and February 2020. Participants were asked about salience, believability, and cognitive processing of warnings currently on packs. They were then shown an image of one current and four novel warnings and asked about their perceived effectiveness in preventing uptake and reducing and stopping tobacco use. They were then asked about warnings on cigarette sticks. RESULTS Most participants (70.2%) recalled warnings on packs and considered them believable (55.7%), but only 12.0% read and 12.4% thought about them often. Warnings about the health impacts of tobacco use were viewed as most effective in preventing uptake, and reducing and stopping tobacco use. Nevertheless, at least a third of participants rated warnings pertaining to financial, social, and environmental impacts effective in preventing uptake, and reducing and stopping tobacco use. Approximately one-fifth (22.0%) thought that warnings on cigarette sticks would deter initiation. CONCLUSIONS Our results suggest that health warnings are perceived as most effective in discouraging tobacco use among college students in Karnataka. While viewed as less effective than health warnings, novel non-health related messages were viewed as effective in preventing uptake, and reducing and stopping tobacco use by at least one in three participants. Warnings on cigarette sticks may help complement warnings on cigarette packs.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Health(social science)
- Medicine (miscellaneous)
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health