Positive impact of Australian 'blindness' tobacco warning labels: Findings from the ITC four country survey

Ryan David Kennedy, Marlee M. Spafford, Ilan Behm, David Hammond, Geoffrey T. Fong, Ron Borland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Background: Smokers with greater knowledge of the health effects of smoking are more likely to quit and remain abstinent. Australia has communicated the causal association of smoking and blindness since the late 1990s. In March 2007, Australia became the first country to include a pictorial warning label on cigarette packages with the message that smoking causes blindness. The current study tested the hypothesis that the introduction of this warning label increased smokers' knowledge of this important health effect. Methods: Six waves of the International Tobacco Control Four Country Survey were conducted, as a telephone survey of 17,472 adult smokers in Australia, Canada, United Kingdom and the United States, with three waves before and three waves after the blindness health warning was introduced in Australia. The survey measured adult smokers' knowledge that smoking causes blindness. Results: Australian smokers were significantly more likely to report that smoking causes blindness, compared to Canadian, UK and US smokers, where there were neither health campaigns nor health warnings labels about blindness. After the introduction of the blindness warning, Australian smokers were more likely than before the blindness warning to report that they know that smoking causes blindness (62 versus 49 per cent; OR = 1.68, 95% CI: 1.03, 2.76, p = 0.04). In Australia, smokers aged over 55years were less likely than those aged 18 to 24 to report that smoking causes blindness (OR = 0.43; 95% CI: 0.29, 0.62, p < 0.001). Conclusion: While more smokers report that smoking causes blindness in Australia compared to other countries, which have not had national social marketing campaigns, further gains in knowledge were found after pictorial warning labels were introduced in Australia. Findings suggest there is still a need to educate the public about the causal association of smoking and blindness. More education may be needed to redress the knowledge gap in older Australian smokers as the incidence of age-related macular degeneration increases with age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)590-598
Number of pages9
JournalClinical and Experimental Optometry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Age-related macular degeneration
  • Cessation
  • Health education
  • Public health
  • Smoking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Optometry


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