Special Session Summary Emerging Research on Us and Canadian Policies Toward Cigarette and Anti-Smoking Advertising and Product Packaging: Effects on Youths and Adults

Cornelia (Connie) Pechmann, University of California, Irvine
[ to cite ]:
Cornelia (Connie) Pechmann (1996) ,"Special Session Summary Emerging Research on Us and Canadian Policies Toward Cigarette and Anti-Smoking Advertising and Product Packaging: Effects on Youths and Adults", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 23, eds. Kim P. Corfman and John G. Lynch Jr., Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 267-268.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 23, 1996      Pages 267-268

SPECIAL SESSION SUMMARY

EMERGING RESEARCH ON US AND CANADIAN POLICIES TOWARD CIGARETTE AND ANTI-SMOKING ADVERTISING AND PRODUCT PACKAGING: EFFECTS ON YOUTHS AND ADULTS

Cornelia (Connie) Pechmann, University of California, Irvine

OVERVIEW OF SESSION

This session brought together several researchers who have been very active in conducting policy research on tobacco consumption and marketing influences. The researchers were afforded the opportunity to disseminate findings from their most recent studies. The findings consistently showed that tobacco advertising and packaging creates favorable beliefs about smoking. Beliefs about smoking are a prime, often leading, indicator of tobacco consumption. Youths who take up (vs. do not take up) smoking have significantly more favorable beliefs about smoking, as do adult smokers who switch to lower tarCbut still harmfulCcigarettes rather than quitting.

The session was very well attended, and policy officials from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) were present. At the ACR lunch talk that followed the session, FDA policy official Bill Schultz stated that his agency's foremost concern was to understand how tobacco marketing may affect smoking by underage youths.

 

TWO EXPERIMENTS ASSESSING THE VISUAL AND SEMANTIC IMAGES ASSOCIATED WITH CURRENT AND PLAIN (GENERIC) CIGARETTE PACKAGING

Authors

The paper was jointly presented by Judith Madill-Marshall of Carleton University in Canada, and Marvin W. Goldberg of Pennsylvania State University. Co-authors are Gerald J. Gorn (University of British Columbia), John Liefeld (Guelph University), and Harrie Vredenburg (University of Calgary).

Objectives

This research was commissioned by the Canadian government to examine the possible promotional effects of current (image-oriented) vs. plain white (generic) cigarette packaging on youth. The presentation reported on two related experiments which represented a part of a national survey administered to 1200 Canadian teens who smoked or were interested in smoking.

Method

The experiments examined teens' visual and semantic images of individuals who smoke different cigarette brands (e.g., feminine brands), in either the brands' current or plain packages. In the Visual Image Study, subjects were asked to indicate, on a five point scale, whether each brand "was right or wrong" for different types of smokers. In the Semantic Image Study, subjects were asked to rate teens who smoked various brands on 15 semantic differentials (e.g., "secure-insecure," "cool- uncool").

Hypotheses

A key hypothesis was that, for a smoker whose attributes were consistent with the package image (e.g., feminine), the white or generic package would be viewed as significantly less appropriate than the current package. This outcome would indicate that it could be useful to remove brand markings (except the name) to reduce the desirable brand images conveyed by cigarette packages.

Findings

The researchers found support for their central hypothesis: By stripping the cigarette package of its unique characteristics (except for brand name in uniform font), the package's self-definitional and "badge" value to teens was significantly reduced. To the extent that youths smoke cigarettes to define and enhance their self image, the expectation would be that the rate of teen smoking would be reduced if plain packaging were the rule.

 

CIGARETTE ADS, ANTI-SMOKING ADS AND PEERS: WHY DO UNDERAGE YOUTHS START SMOKING CIGARETTES?

Authors

The paper was presented by Cornelia (Connie) Pechmann of the University of California, Irvine. The co-author is Susan J. Knight of the University of California, Irvine. The research was funded by the California's Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program.

Objectives

This experiment tested two competing explanations of why youths smoke: (1) cigarette ads glamorize smoking, and (2) peers who smoke promote the activity. This experiment appears to be the first to compare the two purported causes of underage smoking. The study also examined whether 1 anti-smoking ad can offset the effects of 3 cigarette ads. Massachusetts spends roughly $2.30/capita on anti-smoking ads and activities while the tobacco industry spends about three times as much, or $6.70/capita ($3.50 on ads alone, plus $3.20 on specialty items and events). Will Massachusetts' anti-smoking ads pay off?

Method

Subjects were 675 CA 9th graders. None were regular smokers and all rated smokers as less desirable than nonsmokers, so they conceivably could have been immune to pro-smoking influences. Subjects viewed the ads and peer smoking on videotape, to enhance realism. The 12 minute videos showed four teens (mixed in race and gender) filming ads in their neighborhood for a class project and then (in some tapes) smoking.

Eight videotapes were created, that were identical except for the smoking ads included (either 4 cigarette ads, 4 anti-smoking ads, 1 anti plus 3 cigarette ads, or 4 unrelated-to-smoking, i.e., control ads) and peer smoking (either present or absent). Each ad appeared for an identical length of time, and the total spent on smoking ads matched the time spent showing peer smoking (1 minute), to avoid confounds. The cigarette ads that were used scored highest in pretests with 9th graders, and promoted Camel, Kool, Newport and Capri. The anti-smoking ads also scored highest in pretests and were obtained from the California and Washington State Health Departments, and the American Cancer Society.

After seeing the tapes, subjects were asked how teen smokers look to them (using 21 semantic differentials), and their intent to smoke. Subjects' thoughts about the videotapes (ads and smokers) were also measured. Subjects' initial intent to smoke and smoking behaviors had been assessed unobtrusively two weeks in advance.

Hypotheses

It was hypothesized that cigarette ads, when combined with peer smoking, would increase youths' intent to smoke by making teen smokers look more glamorous. Showing just one anti-smoking ad along with the cigarette ads would nullify such effects.

Prior research (Pechmann and Ratneshwar 1994) [Pechmann, C. and S. Ratneshwar (1994), "The Effects of Anti-Smoking and Cigarette Advertising on Young Adolescents' Perceptions of Peers Who Smoke," Journal of Consumer Research, 21 (September), 236-251.] had suggested that, when youths have negative prior beliefs about smokers, cigarette ads are so contrary to such beliefs that the ads tend to be discounted. However, when youths see cigarette ads and then see reasonably attractive teens smoking, the ads could become potent or virulent. Peer smoking could personalize the cigarette ad images, making glamorous and youthful ad images seem relevant and believable, as the US Surgeon General contends. [Executive Summary of Surgeon General's Report on Preventing Tobacco Use Among Young People (1994), Oncology, 8 (May), 16, 19, 46.]

Findings

As predicted, the cigarette (vs. control) ads, when shown with peer smoking, increased subjects' intent to smoke. Likewise, the cigarette ads combined with peer smoking enhanced subjects' perceptions of a teen smoker's social acceptability (likability and sex appeal), life path (intelligence and success), physical state (health, fitness, and cleanliness), and weight (slimness). The cigarette ads did not affect perceptions of a teen smoker's internal welfare (confidence) but the ads chosen did not focus on those attributes.

Including just one anti-smoking ad along with the cigarette ads eliminated (nullified) the cigarette ad effects. The peer smoking only condition had no effects. Overall, the findings indicate that policies to prevent youths from seeing image-oriented cigarette advertising, and/or ensure youths are exposed to adequate anti-smoking ads (e.g., 1 anti ad for every 3 cigarette ads), should reduce smoking rates among underage youths.

 

HEALTH POLICY IMPLICATIONS OF ADVERTISED TAR NUMBERS

Authors

The paper was presented by Joel Cohen of the University of Florida, the sole author.

Objectives

This paper examined the health policy implications of providing smokers with numerical tar ratings in cigarette ads (e.g., "5 mg tar", "10 mg tar"). Such ratings have been included in all cigarette ads since 1970, due to a voluntary agreement among cigarette companies, and the FTC endorses the method used to produce the ratings.

The FTC has recently expressed concern regarding whether smokers might misinterpret tar numbers and thus continue to smoke rather than quit. Lower tar numbers seem to imply less harm and, indeed, ultra low tar cigarettes (1-5 mg) had achieved almost a 13% market share by 1992. Low tar cigarettes (15 mg of tar or less) went from essentially 0% share in 1960 to over 68% share in 1992. Cigarettes with reduced tar slightly lower cancer risk, but do not reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke or other lung disease.

Method

Smokers were contacted via a US national probability telephone survey. They were asked about their awareness, interpretation and use of numerical tar and nicotine ratings.

Hypotheses

The survey questions were designed to determine if smokers were confused about (1) the tar ratings of their brands, (2) how tar ratings affect health risks, and (3) whether decreases in tar ratings lead to directly proportional decreases in tar yields (consumption).

Findings

Few smokers knew the tar ratings for their own cigarettes, except the very low tar (1-5 mg) cigarette smokers. A majority could not correctly judge the relative tar levels of cigarettes. Smokers were unsure about whether switching to lower tar cigarettes would reduce risks. Finally, many smokers incorrectly relied on absolute tar ratings to calculate reduced tar yields. The paper recommends revisions in tar ratings to make them more useful and a required statement on cigarette packages to relate tar levels to risks more explicitly.

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