Perceptions and perceived impact of graphic cigarette health warning labels on smoking behavior among U.S. young adults

Andrea C Villanti, Jennifer Cantrell, Jennifer L Pearson, Donna M Vallone, Jessica M Rath
Nicotine & Tobacco Research 2014, 16 (4): 469-77

INTRODUCTION: In 2011, the Food and Drug Administration published a final rule requiring cigarette packages and advertisements to include graphic health warning labels (HWLs) with new warning statements. Implementation of this rule has been stalled by legal challenge. This study assessed correlates of smoking-related intentions related to graphic HWLs among current cigarette smokers and nonsmokers in a national sample of U.S. young adults aged 18-34.

METHODS: Data were collected from 4,236 participants aged 18-34 using an online panel in January 2012 for the Legacy Young Adult Cohort Study. Analyses were weighted to provide nationally representative estimates. Our main outcome was assessed with a single item: "Do you think that new warning labels with graphic pictures would make you think about not smoking?"

RESULTS: Twenty-two percent of the young adults were current cigarette smokers. Fifty-three percent endorsed that new graphic HWLs would make them think about not smoking (40% among current smokers compared with 56% among nonsmokers). Among nonsmokers, those aged 18-24, females, Hispanics, and those who were aware of graphic cigarette HWLs were more likely to report intention to not smoke related to graphic HWLs. Among current smokers, intending to quit within the next 6 months was correlated with intention resulting from graphic HWLs. Hispanic ethnicity and intention to quit within 30 days were strong correlates of intention in light, nondaily, and self-identified social/occasional smokers.

CONCLUSIONS: This study supports previous findings that graphic HWLs play an important role in preventing smoking, in addition to encouraging cessation in young adults.

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