Reactions of young adult smokers to warning labels on cigarette packages

Michelle O'Hegarty, Linda L Pederson, David E Nelson, Paul Mowery, Julia M Gable, Pascale Wortley
American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2006, 30 (6): 467-73

BACKGROUND: In 1984, the United States Congress enacted legislation requiring four new warning labels for cigarettes; warning labels in the United States have not changed since then. Other countries, such as Canada, have taken a more active and aggressive approach. The purpose of this study was to examine how U.S. smokers and former smokers might respond to stronger and more graphic warnings for U.S. cigarettes packages.

METHODS: Data were collected in 2003 and analyzed in 2004. The perceived impact and effectiveness of the more-explicit Canadian labels was examined among young adult smokers (n=572) and former smokers (n=191) between the ages of 18 and 24 years in the United States, using a web-based survey that allowed participants to view both the text-only and the text-plus-graphic warning labels.

RESULTS: Both current and former smokers thought that cigarette warning labels with text plus graphics were substantially more of a deterrent than text-only labels. The perceived effectiveness of these labels was not only higher overall, but also for the specific areas of smoking-related health effects, prevention, cessation, and maintenance of abstinence. Few differences were noted by gender.

CONCLUSIONS: The findings from this study support previous research that has found that text-plus-graphic warning labels are more salient and potentially more effective than text-only labels.

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