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  1. Research

Correcting Public Misperceptions About Very Low Nicotine Content Cigarettes

Principal Investigator(s): M. Justin Byron

Funding Mechanism: NIH Grant

ID number: 1R21CA234968-01A1

Award Date: June 26, 2019

Institution: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


In July 2017, FDA announced a comprehensive approach to tobacco and nicotine regulation that includes moving toward a very low nicotine content (VLNC) standard for cigarettes. The goal of this study is to reduce unintended consequences of a VLNC policy by developing campaign messages that address the common public misperception that VLNC cigarettes are safer to smoke than normal nicotine content cigarettes (a misperception that could potentially lead to lower quit rates). Study aims are: (1) to develop communication campaign messages that address the misperception that VLNC cigarettes are less likely to cause cancer than current cigarettes; and (2) to determine whether selected campaign messages reduce this misperception. Researchers will first develop 24 potential campaign messages and will obtain feedback from a panel of communication experts to refine the messages. Next, they will conduct an online experiment in 1,000 adult (ages 18 and older) smokers to identify the six most effective messages; conduct six focus groups, each with 8-10 adult smokers, to obtain feedback about the six messages; and work with the expert panel to select three messages for evaluation. They will then conduct an online experiment with a nationally representative sample of 1,096 adult smokers to understand the extent to which the three campaign messages reduce VLNC misperceptions and increase motivation to quit if a VLNC standard is enacted. Study findings may inform communication campaigns about VLNC cigarettes.