Objectives: This study compared the effects of two types of health warnings on cigarette packages: 'narrative visual warnings', showing an image portraying people plus a corresponding slogan that could evoke a story-like interpretation, and 'non-narrative visual warnings' with non-narrative content (i.e. body parts). Moreover, the mechanisms underlying the effects of these health warnings were explored. Design: A within-participants experiment was conducted comparing narrative and non-narrative visual warnings. Path analyses were performed to investigate the relationship between the narrative concepts transportation and identification, the emotions evoked by the health warning and the perceived effectiveness of the message. Method: Participants (N = 200) were presented with one narrative warning and one non-narrative warning. After each warning, they answered questions on narrative perception, transportation, identification, emotions and perceived effectiveness. Results: The narrative warnings were seen as more story-like than the non-narrative warnings. There was a statistical trend for narrative warnings to be perceived as more effective than the non-narratives. The narrative warnings caused more transportation, fear, sadness, compassion and anger; the non-narrative warnings evoked more disgust and surprise. For the narrative warnings, both narrative concepts of transportation and identification were directly related to perceived effectiveness, and also indirectly via sadness. For the non-narrative warnings, transportation was related to perceived effectiveness, both directly and indirectly via disgust. Conclusion: Seeing a story in a still picture with a slogan helps to increase the effectiveness of the antismoking message. Both narrative and non-narrative visual warnings may persuade receivers directly, but also by the evoking of emotions, although the specific emotions responsible for the persuasive effects may differ.