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Effects of health-oriented descriptors on combustible cigarette and electronic cigarette packaging: an experiment among adult smokers in the United States

Abstract

Objective Certain tobacco companies use health-oriented descriptors (eg, 100% organic) on product packaging and advertising of combustible cigarettes or electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) that create a ‘health halo’ around smoking and vaping. Previous observational research suggests that such language may be associated with more favourable attitudes and reduced risk perceptions toward these brands compared with others. This study aimed to determine the effects of health-oriented descriptors on smokers’ attitude toward the brand, perception of packaging information, comparative harm versus other brands and intention to purchase either combustible cigarettes or e-cigarettes.

Method US adult smokers were randomly assigned to view either a health-oriented language package (‘100% organic,’ ‘all natural’ or ‘no additives’), traditional marketing language package (‘fine quality,’ ‘premium blend’ or ‘100% original’) or a no-language package of a combustible cigarette brand (Study 1, n=405) or an e-cigarette brand (Study 2, n=396) in an experimental design.

Results Study 1: Participants in the health-oriented condition reported more favourable perceptions toward the package information, lower comparative harm and higher intention to purchase combustible cigarettes versus the no language control. In addition, participants in the health-oriented condition reported more positive attitude toward the brand and lower comparative harm versus the traditional marketing condition. Study 2: Compared with the traditional marketing condition, participants in the health-oriented condition reported greater intention to purchase Absolute e-cigarettes. There were no significant differences in attitude toward the brand, perception of packaging information and comparative harm versus other brands across conditions.

Conclusions The effect of health-oriented language was significant for combustible cigarettes . Policies to restrict health-oriented language on cigarette packaging are recommended.

  • packaging and labelling
  • electronic nicotine delivery devices
  • advertising and promotion

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