UC Merced Connect: Graphic warnings hit home

July 15, 2013 

Graphic cigarette warning labels are better at discouraging smoking in young adults than text-only labels, according to research recently published by a UC Merced professor.

Health psychology Professor Linda Cameron had more than 300 people ages 18 to 30 view the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's proposed graphic labels and the text-only labels. The participants then evaluated each label's understandability and how much it discouraged them from wanting to smoke.

The results, published this month in Tobacco Control, showed the graphic labels — particularly the ones featuring diseased body parts, death or suffering — were the most effective in discouraging smoking.

Labels with drawings (rather than photographs), metaphors or depictions of unpleasant smoking situations were less likely to deter smoking.

"Graphic warnings for cigarette packages have been adopted by many countries around the world," Cameron said. "Our study contributes to a growing body of research indicating that these labels effectively discourage people from smoking.

"These findings, along with evidence regarding the types of graphic warnings that are most impactful, are critical for guiding policies on the use of these labels in the U.S. and in other countries," she said.

Smoking remains the leading cause of death in the United States and in the rest of the developed world, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association and the World Health Organization.

Cameron's study adds information about how the warning labels can discourage young adult nonsmokers — a vulnerable group — from picking up the habit.

The research is an example of how UC Merced professors are studying important health problems that plague society and creating knowledge that can inform policy decisions at the national and international level.

Anthropologist publishes study on nation-building

Professor Robin DeLugan is an expert in nation-building and recently published a case study examining how the process has changed in the 21st century.

Using post-civil war El Salvador as the example, "Reimagining National Belonging" looks at the creation of social unity and construction of shared identity following an extended, divisive conflict.

As a socio-cultural anthropologist, DeLugan tells the story of rebuilding El Salvador not just from the perspective of those who were there in the aftermath of the war but also from her personal experiences while observing the restoration process from 1992-2011.

"Watching the process unfold allowed me to identify and explore the process of constructing a national identity, particularly with regard to exclusion and inclusion," DeLugan said.

"Historically, nations will romanticize the past of their indigenous populations yet exclude them as stakeholders from present-day nation-building efforts," she said. "I studied a process whereby El Salvador was encouraged to take a different approach."

That approach has included a complex set of participants — civil society organizations, international agencies, scholars, the media, cultural leaders and museums — working together to reconstruct the meaning of El Salvador as a nation.

There is an ongoing initiative to reword an article of the constitution to reflect the presence and contributions of indigenous populations.

"This isn't just about rebuilding a society or an economy," DeLugan notes. "It's about re-creating an identity."

And in this process, she said, the key players aren't letting borders dictate the definition of their nation. Those who fled the country during the war make up about one-third of the nation's population and are called hermanos lejanos (faraway brothers and sisters).

The country's first monument erected after the war is dedicated to these citizens living abroad and serves as a reminder of their strong emotional and economic ties to their homeland.

In her book, DeLugan examines these aspects of post-war El Salvador in a global context, leaving the reader to understand that though the anecdotes are from El Salvador, the themes can be applied to any other nation in a similar situation.

UC Merced Connect is a collection of news items written by the University Communications staff. To contact them, email communications@ucmerced.edu.

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