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New UW study suggests packaging and health warnings can discourage youth from using cannabis

Because prominent health warnings and less attractive health packaging can reduce the appeal, making them appear more harmful rather than cool
Cannabis in a jar
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A new study from researchers at the University of Waterloo has found that the advertising and promotion on cannabis packages can influence whether people view cannabis as appealing or harmful -- the more branding a product has, the more appealing it seems to be.

Therefore, limiting branding and having prominent health warnings is something researchers believe could be helpful in deterring youth from developing a taste for it at a young age.

“For a child who's entering the market and trying to figure out if cannabis is a product their friends would think is cool, and that they can project an image with it, that’s exactly what brand imagery and promotion does, especially on packages," said David Hammond, a professor in Waterloo's School of Public Health Sciences. “So, if states or countries are interested in protecting youth, our data suggest that packaging restrictions and comprehensive health warnings are effective ways of doing that.

“The more imagery legislators allow, the more appealing these cannabis products will be to the public, especially children. It's up to governments to figure out where to draw the line." 

In experimental surveys with over 45,000 participants from Canada and the U.S., participants were shown different types of packaging and asked to assess the products appeal based on colour and branding imagery. 

They found that for the most part, reducing the brand imagery decreased the appeal. Products with more branding were also viewed as less harmful. Health warnings required in Canada were also easier for participants to recall than those required in the U.S.

"Canada's warning messages on cannabis products are more salient and easier to recall than in the US," Hammond said. "Overall, our findings suggest that Canada's comprehensive regulations appear to be achieving their goal, which is to inform consumers about risks and reducing appeal, including among young people."

You can read the full study here

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