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Talking cigarette packs are here. Will they make smokers butt out?

Are smokers more likely to quit if their own pack of cigarettes tells them to?

That's the belief of researchers at the University of Stirling in Scotland who have come up with cigarette packages that play a recorded message each time they're opened. The message warns smokers about fertility risks and gives a help-line phone number for further information on quitting.

The invention connects directly to the Scottish government's efforts to help people stop smoking. Scottish Publish Health Minister Michael Matheson recently set a target to reduce the number of smokers in Scotland from 23 per cent to 5 per cent by 2034.

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Funding for the talking cigarette box came from Cancer Research U.K., which supported the Stirling study "to see if the marketing tools of the tobacco industry can be used to help smokers quit instead," according to spokesperson Alison Cox.

And here's the really weird part about the talking cigarette packs: Smokers are listening.

The prerecorded messages are said to have worked well during tests conducted on a group of women aged 16 to 34. The university will now expand the study with tests on larger groups of males and females aged 16 and over.

Says Stirling team member Crawford Moodie: "This research shows how the idea can be used to promote 'positive health' to smokers."

All of which is good news, but smokers are a determined lot and by now most are accustomed to graphic warnings on cigarette packages, detailing the effects of cigarettes on their lungs, their teeth and their libidos. Wouldn't the cause be helped further if famous people recorded the anti-smoking messages?

People still buy into celebrity endorsements and it's a safe bet that having Scotland's biggest names deliver the anti-smoking rants would lend immediate credence to the program.

What self-respecting Scot would dare not heed a health warning delivered in the unmistakable Scottish burr of Sean Connery? For the younger demographic, there's the dulcet tones of Gerard Butler to warn of smoking's perils. And somehow Billy Connolly and Craig Ferguson would find their own ways to make an anti-smoking message funny.

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To smokers and non-smokers alike: What do you think of the talking cigarette pack idea?

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