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Smokers' sensory beliefs mediate the relation between smoking a light/low tar cigarette and perceptions of harm
  1. Tara Elton-Marshall1,2,
  2. Geoffrey T Fong3,4,7,
  3. Hua-Hie Yong5,
  4. Ron Borland5,
  5. Steve Shaowei Xu3,
  6. Anne C K Quah3,
  7. Guoze Feng6,
  8. Yuan Jiang6
  1. 1Social and Epidemiological Research Department, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, London, Ontario, Canada
  2. 2School of Public Health and Health Systems, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
  3. 3Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
  4. 4Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, Toronto, Canada
  5. 5The Cancer Council Victoria, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  6. 6Office of Tobacco Control, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Beijing, China
  7. 7School of Public Health and Health Systems, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Tara Elton-Marshall, Social and Epidemiological Research Department, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 100 Collip Circle, Suite 200, London, Ontario N6G 4X8, Canada; Tara.EltonMarshall{at}camh.ca

Abstract

Background The sensory belief that ‘light/low tar’ cigarettes are smoother can also influence the belief that ‘light/low tar’ cigarettes are less harmful. However, the ‘light’ concept is one of several factors influencing beliefs. No studies have examined the impact of the sensory belief about one's own brand of cigarettes on perceptions of harm.

Objective The current study examines whether a smoker's sensory belief that their brand is smoother is associated with the belief that their brand is less harmful and whether sensory beliefs mediate the relation between smoking a ‘light/low tar’ cigarette and relative perceptions of harm among smokers in China.

Methods Data are from 5209 smokers who were recruited using a stratified multistage sampling design and participated in Wave 3 of the International Tobacco Control (ITC) China Survey, a face-to-face survey of adult smokers and non-smokers in seven cities.

Results Smokers who agreed that their brand of cigarettes was smoother were significantly more likely to say that their brand of cigarettes was less harmful (p<0.001, OR=6.86, 95% CI 5.64 to 8.33). Mediational analyses using the bootstrapping procedure indicated that both the direct effect of ‘light/low tar’ cigarette smokers on the belief that their cigarettes are less harmful (b=0.24, bootstrapped bias corrected 95% CI 0.13 to 0.34, p<0.001) and the indirect effect via their belief that their cigarettes are smoother were significant (b=0.32, bootstrapped bias-corrected 95% CI 0.28 to 0.37, p<0.001), suggesting that the mediation was partial.

Conclusions These results demonstrate the importance of implementing tobacco control policies that address the impact that cigarette design and marketing can have in capitalising on the smoker's natural associations between smoother sensations and lowered perceptions of harm.

  • “light”
  • “sensory,” “low tar,” “risk”
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