The U.S. Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (Tobacco Control Act) of 2009 paved the way for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to propose nine different graphic warning labels (GWLs) intended for prominent placement on the front and back of cigarette packs and on cigarette advertisements. Those GWLs were adjudicated as unconstitutional on the ground that they unnecessarily infringed tobacco companies’ free speech without sufficiently advancing the government’s public health interests. This study examines whether less extensive alternatives to the original full-color GWLs, including black-and-white GWLs and text-only options, have similar or divergent effects on visual attention, negative affect, and health risk beliefs. We used a mobile media research lab to conduct a randomized experiment with two populations residing in socioeconomically disadvantaged communities: biochemically confirmed adult smokers (N = 313) and middle school youth (N = 340). Results indicate that full-color GWLs capture attention for longer than black-and-white GWLs among both youth and adult smokers. Among adults, packages with GWLs (in either color or black-and-white) engendered more negative affect than those with text-only labels, while text-only produced greater negative affect than the packages with brand imagery only. Among youth, GWLs and text-only labels produced comparable levels of negative affect, albeit more so than brand imagery. We thus offer mixed findings related to the claim that a less extensive alternative could satisfy the government’s compelling public health interest to reduce cigarette smoking rates.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Health(social science)