Penn Study Shows Smokers Assume a False Sense
of Safety from Advertising for Low Nicotine Quest® Cigarettes
(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 Research.
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