TALKING cigarette packets could become the latest trend to encourage smokers to quit.
Scottish researchers have created a new talking cigarette packet to warn addicts of the risks to their health.
The idea was inspired by tobacco companies who have been making packaging more attractive for consumers.
Researchers wanted to see if similar tactics could work against the companies and encourage people to give up the habit, rather than keep buying.
The recordings will play alongside the gory images and messages already printed on the packs.
Researchers at Stirling University have been testing the new devices on young women, and are about to open this up to include older age groups and men.
The researchers from the university’s Centre for Tobacco Control Research created two talking packets with different recorded messages.
One offered smokers a phone number for advice on quitting smoking and another warned that smoking reduces fertility.
The packets use similar technology to singing birthday cards were a message plays when the lid is opened.
The packs are fitted with a voice recording and playback unit so that the message will be replayed whenever the packet is opened.
The device was initially tested on women between the ages of 16 and 24, as this remains one of the groups with high smoking rates.
Volunteers said that they found the messages about fertility “hard-hitting” and “off-putting.”
Girls aged 16-17 in particular said that it would make them think about quitting.
However, other volunteer said that the messages could lead them to quitting or cutting back simply because they were so annoying.
One woman said: “Some people would maybe say I need to pack that in because the packets are doing my nut in.”
While another said that she would just become used to the warnings.
She said: “I think you would probably get used to it. Once you start smoking you just ignore it.”
Crawford Moodie, one of the researchers, said: “It is possible in the future we may see packs that play music or talk, so we wanted to see if that could be used for our purposes.
“With the talking packs, people thought they were really annoying, but that is a really good way to capture attention. It created a lot of interest.”
Any changes to packaging would require new legislation to force companies into using them. However, campaigners have welcomed the idea.
Sheila Duffy, chief executive of ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) Scotland said: “The tobacco industry buys a great deal of creative expertise to market its addictive and lethal products to new consumers, mainly young people.
“I welcome the suggestion that we get more creative to put forward images of good health and freedom from addiction as alternatives to tobacco, and that we start requiring tobacco companies to present the truth to their consumers in more eye-catching ways.”
Alison Cox, tobacco control lead at Cancer Research UK said: “We know that tobacco companies target women and younger people with stylish, colourful packs that reduce the impact of health warnings. The sophisticated marketing can mislead people as it disguises how harmful cigarettes are. This Cancer Research UK funded study is looking to see if the marketing tools of the tobacco industry can be used to help smokers quit instead.
“This and our research is part of our commitment to stop the tobacco industry targeting both children and adults, particularly as more than 200,000 children in the UK still start smoking every year.”
Simon Clark, director of the smoker’s lobby group Forest, said: “I can’t imagine anything more attractive to children than a pre-recorded message. It’s like a talking birthday card.
The more gruesome the message the more enticing it will be. That’s why horror films are popular with teenagers.
“If the idea takes off I look forward to similar warnings when you open a bottle of beer of unwrap a bar of chocolate.”