Source Attribution


Research indicates that smokers report pictorial warning to be a credible source of information, particularly when attributed to a well-respected Department of Health or a well respected non-governmental authority, such as a cancer society. In countries where the government health ministry is well regarded and has high credibility, attribution to a government source may increase the believability of the information; however, if the government is gener ally disliked or mistrusted, attribut ion t o government sources may result in rejection of the health warning. Attributions also require valuable space that could be devoted to other information. It should also be noted that the tobacco industry has previously lobbied for government attribution, perhaps to distance itself from the health messages.

Current Best International Practice

Warnings in countries such as Canada, Australia, Brazil, and Venezuela include text attributing the health warning to the government or some other source. However, this is not the case in many other countries, including members of the European Union, and in Southeast Asia countries such as Malaysia and others. Often, the name of the health ministry is included in small letters at the end of the warning. In other cases, the attribution is included as part of the preamble to the warning, such as: “The Department of Health and Welfare advises…” Overall, however, there is no clear consensus as to whether attributions increase or decrease the credibility of warnings. If attributions are included as part of the warning, the attribution should be made to a health authority rather than the government in general. The attribution should also be relatively small to minimise the space it occupies and should appear at the bottom or end of the text message, rather than at the beginning.