Graphic health warnings on the back of cigarette packs do not deter regular teenage smokers, a new study has revealed.

The Stirling University study based its findings on the responses of more than 1,000 11 to 16-year-olds in the UK, in two waves of the Youth Tobacco Policy Survey in 2008 and 2011. 

It found that the images had had almost no effect on deterring 11 to 16-year-old regular smokers, who tended to hide packs to “avoid warnings and a decrease in warning salience”.

The warnings did however have more of an impact on experimental smokers, and those who had never smoked before.

Among regular smokers, the proportion who said that the warnings stopped them from having a cigarette fell from 32% to 23% between 2008 and 2011.

Lead researcher Dr Crawford Moodie said that while it was disappointing that the images did not seem to have an impact on smokers, the rise in the numbers of non-smokers and experimenters being deterred was positive.

However, the fact that graphic warnings are only currenly positioned on the back of packs, and have not been changed since they were introduced in 2008, meant there was a risk of people becoming desensitised, he warned.

Graphic health warnings were introduced on the back of cigarette packs in the UK on October 1 2008, with the last permitted date for sell-through of cigarette products with text only on September 30 2009.