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Effects of advertising features on smokers’ and non-smokers’ perceptions of a reduced nicotine cigarette modified risk tobacco product
  1. Melissa Mercincavage1,2,
  2. Lauren R Pacek3,
  3. James Thrasher4,
  4. Joseph N Cappella2,5,
  5. Cristine Delnevo2,6,
  6. Eric C Donny2,7,
  7. Andrew A Strasser1,2,5
  1. 1 Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
  2. 2 University of Pennsylvania-Rutgers University Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science, Philadelphia, PA, USA
  3. 3 Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, USA
  4. 4 Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior, School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, USA
  5. 5 Annenberg School of Communication, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA
  6. 6 Rutgers Center for Tobacco Studies, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA
  7. 7 Baptist Comprehensive Cancer Center and Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Melissa Mercincavage, Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6243, USA; melmer{at}


Introduction Research is needed to determine the impact of marketing on perceptions and use of reduced nicotine content (RNC) cigarettes, particularly as US regulators have permitted the sale of an RNC cigarette modified risk tobacco product (MRTP) that seeks further authorisation to advertise using modified risk claims. This study examined the effects of two advertising elements (product name and disclaimer content) on perceptions of an RNC cigarette MRTP.

Methods Adult participants (n=807, 28.7% smokers, 58.2% male, 74.2% non-Latinx white) completed an online MTurk survey. Participants were randomised to view one of six RNC cigarette advertisements, using a 2×3 between-subject factorial design to manipulate product name (‘Moonlight’ vs ‘Moonrise’) and disclaimer content (industry-proposed: ‘Nicotine is addictive. Less nicotine does NOT mean a safer cigarette’ vs focused: ‘Less nicotine does NOT mean a safer cigarette’ vs no content), then completed recall and product perception questionnaires.

Results All participants who viewed the industry-proposed disclaimer (vs no content) perceived greater addiction risk (p’s<0.05). Non-smokers who viewed this disclaimer also perceived greater health risks and held fewer false beliefs (p’s<0.05). Smokers who viewed Moonlight (vs Moonrise) ads perceived lower health risks (p<0.05).

Conclusions Disclaimer content may effectively inform consumers about addiction risk of a new RNC cigarette MRTP, and further inform non-smokers about health risks. This element, however, had little effect on perceived health risks among smokers, among whom the Moonlight product name was associated with health risk misperceptions similar to the banned ‘light’ descriptor.

  • advertising and promotion
  • nicotine
  • packaging and labelling

Data availability statement

Data and a corresponding measures codebook will be made available upon request.

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Data availability statement

Data and a corresponding measures codebook will be made available upon request.

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  • Twitter @melmercincavage, @laurenrpacek

  • Contributors MM and AAS conceptualised the study. MM conducted the analyses and wrote the initial manuscript draft. All authors contributed to subsequent manuscript versions and have approved of the final version.

  • Funding This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) under Awards K07 CA218366 (Mercincavage) and K01 DA043413 (Pacek); and by the NIH and FDA Centre for Tobacco Products under Award U54 CA229973 (Strasser/Delnevo).

  • Disclaimer The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH or the FDA.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.