Roll-your-own tobacco warnings recommended

New pictorial warnings on tobacco pouches specifically aimed at New Zealand’s many roll-your-own smokers should be introduced, a study suggests.

The University of Otago study — the first of its kind undertaken in this country — explored how roll-your-own tobacco smokers reacted to warnings aimed specifically at them.

"We definitely think it’s time for a rethink," study lead researcher Mei-Ling Blank said this week.

"New Zealand has followed the same strategy for roll-your-own tobacco smokers for a very long time," she said.

The study explored how roll-your-own smokers, who make up 40% of New Zealand’s smokers, reacted to roll-your-own-specific themes and warnings.

Ms Blank, a research fellow in the Otago department of preventive and social medicine, said the results suggested "new, harder-hitting, user-specific themes on tobacco pouches" should be tried.

New Zealand had an unusually high percentage of roll-your-own smokers compared with many other countries, and they tended to believe their cigarettes were superior and some health warnings did not fully apply to them, she said.

More than half the study participants thought roll-your-own tobacco was more natural (54.7%) and had fewer additives (50.8%) than tobacco in tailor-made cigarettes.

"This is incorrect," she said.

In fact, in New Zealand many more additives were included in roll-your-own tobacco than in tobacco in tailor-made cigarettes, Ms Blank said.

Such "erroneous beliefs" might lead roll-your-own smokers to think general smoking warnings did not apply to them.

The study, by Ms Blank, Prof Janet Hoek and Prof Philip Gendall, was published this week in the Drug and Alcohol Review.

During the survey, 785 roll-your-own smokers were shown images of tobacco pouches with eight different pictorial warning labels and messages targeting such smokers.

The picture of a man suffering — a real image of a man who was a smoker and died of cancer, aged 34 — elicited the strongest response, Prof Hoek said.

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