Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut October 11, 2012 - 9:10 am

Researchers testing reactions to cigarette warning labels in Nunavut

People in Iqaluit who are willing to be surveyed receive a $50 North Mart food voucher

DAVID MURPHY
Look for Mary-Jean Costello and Costello and Dianne Iyago in the North Mart in Iqaluit where they're seeking people willing to be surveyed on tobacco warning labels and Nunavut's Tobacco Has No Place Here campaign. (PHOTO BY DAVID MURPHY)
Look for Mary-Jean Costello and Costello and Dianne Iyago in the North Mart in Iqaluit where they're seeking people willing to be surveyed on tobacco warning labels and Nunavut's Tobacco Has No Place Here campaign. (PHOTO BY DAVID MURPHY)

Decaying and bloodied gums, yellowed fingertips and exposed and rotten lungs are commonplace images on cigarette packages these days — but have you ever wondered if those disgusting warning labels actually work?

That’s something Mary-Jean Costello, a graduate student at the University of Waterloo, wants to figure out.

Costello is visiting Iqaluit from Oct. 10 to Oct. 19, and then travelling to Rankin Inlet for a week after that, to survey Nunavummiut.

Costello wants to see how people respond to tobacco warning labels, how they respond to the Tobacco Has No Place Here campaign and to find out how to improve these images so the message resonates longer.

“Some strategies that have been used for the Tobacco Has No Place Here campaign really were more sort of targeted to Inuit audience. They used testimonial messages, so personal stories about Inuit with communities,” said Costello. “The idea is that these messages would resonate more with them.”

“That’s what were trying to test — if that is in fact true,” she said.

Costello plans to be at at the North Mart in Iqaluit from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day until she leaves the city on Oct. 19. Then you’ll be able to find her at the Northern store in Rankin Inlet until Oct. 29.

She’ll be asking people to participate in a confidential survey, which takes about an hour to complete. Participants receive a $50 gift certificate to North Mart when they complete the survey.

In the survey, Costello and nursing student Dianne Iyago from Baker Lake will be able to see participants’ responses to standard labels that display phrases such as “You are going to die from smoking” and “Smoking increases the risk of lung cancer.”

Their longer-term goal is to “generate some evidence, to then inform the next phase of the Tobacco Has No Place Here campaign.”

The Tobacco Has No Place Here campaign started in January 2012. Its posters display personal messages of Nunavummiut overcoming smoking to help encourage people to quit.

Costello hopes the survey, funded by the Government of Nunavut’s department of health and social services and the Canadian Institute for Health Research, will drive down the smoking rate in the territory.

Nunavut, according to the latest 2011 Statistics Canada figures, has the highest rate of smokers compared to all other jurisdictions at 59.7 per cent.

“A lot of work has been done across the country around tobacco messaging and it seems to be a real gap here, and not much is known particularly about Inuit smokers,” she said.

“We really want to fill that gap and search for evidence that can be used by health and social services as well as other agencies like the federal government and other agencies that are trying to get health information about smoking out,” she said.

Costello doesn’t think newer and improved warning labels will reduce the high rate of smokers in Nunavut alone. But by boosting taxes on cigarettes and having support for quitters readily available, the rate can be driven down, she said.

 

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