Ads Counter Safer-Cigarette Claims
Low-tar cigarettes marketed as "light" and "ultra-light" may give the impression they're less dangerous, but ad campaigns that dispute such claims can get smokers to change their minds.
Researchers from the Department of Biobehavioral Health at Pennsylvania State University in University Park surveyed 500 smokers and ex-smokers in Massachusettts and 501 smokers and former smokers from other states. In Massachusetts, the state Department of Public Health ran two television commercials that countered the claims that low-tar cigarettes were less of a health hazard. One ad explained that low-tar can become the opposite when filters malfunction. The second ad depicted a skull and crossbones to send a warning about low-tar cigarettes.
The 332 Massachusetts folks who saw the ads were more likely to believe that light cigarettes were just as risky as regular cigarettes, while the group living outside Massachusetts continued to believe light cigarettes weren't very dangerous to their health.
"Many smokers think that some cigarettes are less risky than others," says lead study author Lynn T. Kozlowski, "yet the reality of this is doubtful. Targeted advertising can correct this possibly serious misunderstanding. Because the cigarette industry promotes light and ultra-light cigarettes to keep health-concerned smokers smoking, the public health community should support counter-marketing these cigarettes."
This study is published in the May issue of American Journal of Preventive Medicine.