Background: The Directive 1999/0244 (COD), recently approved by the European Parliament, proposed that the content and presentation of health warnings on cigarette packets be modified. The aim of the present study was to analyse the potential effect of the planned measures on the perceptions by Spanish youth of the risks associated with smoking.
Method: A sample of 435 students attending the University of La Rioja were surveyed on their perceptions of the principal health risks attributable to the consumption of tobacco i.e. lung cancer, respiratory diseases and cardiovascular disease. A questionnaire was administered before and after they were presented with a demonstration of the health warnings on cigarette packets based on the new European Union directive.
Results: Perceptions changed significantly following exposure to the content and type of information of the new packaging. In general, the university students attributed a higher health risk to smoking following the presentation.
Conclusions: The measures developed by the public sector to present a higher profile of anti-tobacco health warnings do influence the target population in the desired direction, at least in the short term. Hence, given that the perception of risk influences the election to smoke, it is predictable that when these types of policy decisions are applied, there will be a tendency towards a reduction in the incidence and prevalence of tobacco consumption.