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Optimizing Graphic Warning Labels to Promote Cessation among Young Adult Smokers

Principal Investigator: Darren M. Mays

Funding Mechanism:  National Institutes of Health- Grant

ID Number: 1K07CA172217-01A1

Award Date: 8/5/2014

Institution:  Georgetown University 

Young adult smokers are susceptible to tobacco industry marketing and have a high risk of becoming lifelong smokers. The goal of this study is to examine whether two potential cigarette packaging regulations -- requiring graphic health warning labels on cigarette packs and requiring plain (unbranded) packaging -- reduce cigarettes’ appeal and lead to cessation. Specific aims are: (1) to determine whether graphic warning labels reduce the likelihood of cigarette purchases and to identify the factors that enhance this effect; (2) to investigate the short-term impact of warning message framing and plain packaging on the motivation to quit or reduce smoking; and (3) to assess the long-term durability of the effects of warning message framing and plain packaging. The study will involve a sample of 400 young adult smokers aged 18-30. First, participants will be shown cigarette packs that vary based on warning message framing (gain- or loss-framed) and packaging (branded or plain) and will be asked about their preferences regarding cigarette purchases based on the packs. Second, participants will be randomized to either use their regular cigarette packs or one of four adapted packs that contain their own cigarettes but vary based on message framing and packaging; all participants will respond to daily mobile phone text message prompts assessing motivation to quit and cigarettes smoked per day for four weeks and will complete an in-person final assessment. Finally, researchers will examine the durability of the effects of the adapted packs by assessing motivation to quit, cigarettes smoked per day, quit attempts, and pack-related behaviors (such as hiding the pack) one and three months after the study’s conclusion. Study results may inform regulatory policies related to cigarette packaging.

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