(Philadelphia, PA) - A study by researchers at
the Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center of the University
of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found that many smokers
make false inferences about the safety of new low nicotine Quest®
cigarettes. This research appears in the March issue of Psychology
of Addictive Behaviors.
“This study is the first to evaluate how regular smokers responded
to a print ad for Quest cigarettes, a newly developed cigarette
marketed as a way to gradually reduce nicotine exposure via smoking
cigarettes that are lower in nicotine,” said author Caryn
Lerman, PhD, Associate Director for Cancer Control and
Population Science at the Abramson Cancer Center of the
University of Pennsylvania, and Professor in Penn’s
School of Medicine and the Annenberg Public Policy Center.
Quest® cigarettes are a brand of low-nicotine cigarettes manufactured
by Vector Tobacco, Inc., and currently marketed in eight US states.
Quest® cigarettes, both regular and menthol, are manufactured
with three progressively lower nicotine levels and marketed as allowing
smokers to “step-down” nicotine levels to enjoy “nicotine-free
smoking.” Anti-smoking advocates highlight the long-term health
effects – like cancer and emphysema – that result from
a lifetime of smoking or chewing tobacco. These maladies, however,
are the result of chemicals in cigarettes other than nicotine.
While Quest® cigarettes do offer reduced nicotine levels,
they do not have progressively less tar and thus,
still pose significant health risks. Given evidence that many smokers
misinterpret the information contained in marketing campaigns for
such “light” cigarettes it is important to understand
how smokers perceive this newly marketed low nicotine cigarette.
Lerman led a research team that examined the response of 200 regular
smokers to a Quest ® cigarette print advertisement using a mall
intercept survey approach. Participants viewed a single Quest®
cigarette print advertisement and then were asked to answer a series
of questions about their smoking and quitting history, beliefs about
Quest® cigarettes, perceived vulnerability to the health effects
of smoking, and the “need for cognition” – or
how much people like to think critically about information. Researchers
found that as many as 45% of smokers made false inferences about
the tar content of Quest® cigarettes. Also, smokers who felt
less vulnerable to the health effects of smoking and who do not
enjoy thinking critically about issues made more false inferences
about the potential harms of Quest® cigarettes.
“These results reinforce the need for public health awareness
campaigns to relay the message that smoking any cigarettes –
regardless of nicotine content – can have deleterious health
effects,” said co-author Andrew Strasser, PhD.
This research was funded by the National Cancer Institute and was
conducted by the University of Pennsylvania Transdisciplinary Tobacco
Use Research Center and the Center of Excellence in Cancer Communication
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