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Estimating the impact of pictorial health warnings and "plain" cigarette packaging: evidence from experimental auctions among adult smokers in the United States

James F Thrasher, Matthew C Rousu, David Hammond, Ashley Navarro, Jay R Corrigan
Health Policy 2011, 102 (1): 41-8
21763026

OBJECTIVE: To estimate differences in demand for cigarette packages with different packaging and health warning label formats.

METHODS: Adult smokers (n=404) in four states participated in experimental auctions. Participants bid on two of four experimental conditions, each involving a different health warning label format but with the same warning message: (1) text on 50% of pack side; (2) text on 50% of the pack front and back; (3) text with a graphic picture on 50% of the pack front and back; and (4) same as previous format, but without brand imagery.

RESULTS: Mean bids decreased across conditions (1: $3.52; 2: $3.43; 3: $3.11; 4: $2.93). Bivariate and multivariate random effects models indicated that there was no statistically significant difference in demand for packs with either of the two text only warnings; however, demand was significantly lower for both packs with prominent pictorial warnings, with the lowest demand associated with the plain, unbranded pack.

CONCLUSIONS: Results suggest that prominent health warnings with graphic pictures will reduce demand for cigarettes. Regulators should not only consider this type of warning label, but also plain packaging policies for tobacco products.

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