Islamabad - With 2016 just around the corner, many individuals will be gearing up to take on one of the most challenging New Year’s resolutions: to quit smoking. But a new study suggests this challenge could be made easier if graphic warning labels were put on cigarette packets, after finding such warnings trigger more negative feelings towards smoking than text warnings alone.

Lead study author Abigail Evans, a postdoctoral researcher at Ohio State University, and colleagues said this in their findings.

In 2011, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a final rule that required tobacco companies to include colour graphics on cigarette packets that depict the negative health implications of smoking. In 2012, however, a US federal appeals court overturned the ruling, claiming the images put forward by the FDA were “unconstitutional” and were “unabashed attempts to evoke emotion [...] and browbeat consumers into quitting.”

According to Evans and colleagues, their findings suggest the decision to overturn the FDA’s rule based on these grounds was wrong; the team says the graphic images do not “browbeat” consumers, and though they do evoke emotion in smokers, the researchers say these emotions make people think more carefully about the health risks of smoking.

“What the court is missing is that without emotions, we can’t make decisions,” says study co-author Ellen Peters, professor of psychology at Ohio State. “We require having feelings about information we collect in order to feel motivated to act. These graphic warnings helped people to think more carefully about the risks and to consider them more.”

The team reached their conclusion by assessing 244 adults of an average age of 34 who smoked between 5-40 cigarettes a day.

For 4 weeks, smokers were given their preferred brand of cigarettes in packaging that had been modified; some packets contained warning text only - such as “cigarettes cause fatal lung disease” - some contained warning text plus one of nine graphics depicting the dangers of smoking, while others consisted of warning text, graphics plus additional text detailing the risk of every cigarette smoked.

The warning graphics used were developed by the FDA and contained disturbing images, such as a man smoking through a hole in his throat, depicting a surgical procedure known as a tracheostomy that is a result of some smoking-related cancers. Each week for the 4-week period, smokers collected their cigarettes from the lab and completed surveys detailing how the new packaging made them feel about smoking.

Compared with participants who received text-only packaging, those who received packaging with graphic warnings were more likely to read or look closely at the information, were more likely to remember the information, and were more likely to report that the packaging made them feel worse about smoking.

“The feelings produced by the graphic images acted as a spotlight,” notes Peters. “Smokers looked more carefully at the packages and, as a result, the health risks fell into the spotlight and led to more consideration of those risks.”

In addition, smokers who received packaging with graphic warnings were also more likely to view the information as more “credible” than those who received text-only packaging, and they were also slightly more likely to say they planned to quit smoking.

“For a health issue like smoking, which causes about a half-million deaths a year in the United States, even small effects can have a large impact in the population,” says Peters. “The effect was small, but it was not unimportant.”

Overall, the researchers say their findings show graphic warnings are more effective than text-only warnings for getting consumers to consider the health risks of smoking.

Scientists identify immune cell that fights cold virus in the lungs

Scientists have identified an immune cell in the lungs of human that fight against cold virus. The virus infects the airways and lungs. In healthy people, this can lead to a heavy cold, the type that perhaps makes you miss work for a couple of days, says lead investigator Christopher Chiu, a specialist in infectious diseases and microbiology

“However, we are mainly concerned about how dangerous it can be to the young and old, where it can cause lung infections such as bronchiolitis and pneumonia.”

In the new study, the team found that immune cells called resident memory T cells are particularly active during RSV infections.

Resident memory T cells are surveillance cells that look out for invaders and then raise the alarm for other immune cells to come and kill them.

Previous research has already shown that resident memory T cells help fight influenza in mice, but this is the first time they have been shown to help fight RSV in humans.

The team also found that people with high levels of these cells appear less likely to show symptoms of RSV infection.

Dr. Chiu says their study shows a nasal vaccine is more likely to reach these immune cells - which are in the lung - than one that is injected in the arm. He notes:

“There are around 50 potential vaccines being investigated at the moment, and a few of these will be delivered in nasal sprays.”

For their study, the researchers infected 49 healthy volunteers with RSV. They kept them under closely monitored conditions in the hospital for 10 days - studying them before and after infection.

Just over half of the participants developed an infection - most of whom developed symptoms of a common cold.

The researchers took airway tissue samples from the infected participants to analyze the immune cells.

They found that the high levels of resident memory T cells before infection correlated with reduced symptoms and viral load, suggesting the presence of the cells in the human lung protects against RSV.

Dr. Chiu says that so far this year, there have been relatively few cases of flu in the UK, but there have already been lots of hospital admissions with RSV.

Research shows the human body does not have very strong defenses against RSV, which is why the team wants to discover which immune cells are involved and find out whether it is possible to boost their power.