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Awareness of FDA-mandated cigarette packaging changes among smokers of ‘light’ cigarettes


Previous research has clearly demonstrated that smokers associate cigarette descriptors such as ‘light’, ‘ultra-light’ and ‘low tar’ with reduced health risks, despite evidence showing that cigarettes with these descriptor terms do not present lower health risk. In June 2010, regulations implemented by the US Food and Drug Administration went into effect to ban the use of ‘light’, ‘mild’ and ‘low’ on cigarette packaging. We surveyed smokers participating in human laboratory studies at our Center in Philadelphia, PA, USA shortly after the ban went into effect to determine the extent of awareness of recent cigarette packaging changes among smokers of light cigarettes. In our sample of 266 smokers, 76 reported smoking light cigarettes, but fewer than half of these smokers reported noticing changes to their cigarette packaging. Simple removal of a few misleading terms may be too subtle of a change to register with consumers of so-called ‘low tar’ cigarettes; more comprehensive regulation of cigarette packaging design may be necessary to gain smokers’ attention and minimize misperceptions associated with tobacco pack design characteristics and color.

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