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Open Access Communicating about Cigarette Smoke Constituents: A National US Survey

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Objectives: The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is required to report quantities of harmful and potentially harmful constituents (HPHCs) in cigarette smoke in an "understandable and not misleading" manner. If smokers mistakenly believe that HPHC quantities indicate degree of harmfulness, they might switch brands instead of quitting. Methods: In a national online survey, 1709 adult smokers viewed facts about HPHCs and their quantities, with variations in content (numbers only or numbers with additional information) and format (graphic or non-graphic). We examined participants' understanding of key facts and how misled they were about the meaning of HPHC quantities. Results: Many smokers did not understand basic HPHC information even immediately after reading it. Up to one-third were misled or potentially misled about the relationship between chemical quantities and possible health harms. When viewing information about chemical-related health harms rather than just numbers, smokers were more likely to understand the information but also more likely to be misled. Graphic format was helpful only when matched with specific content types. Conclusions: The FDA should emphasize that HPHC quantities are not equivalent to degree of harmfulness, particularly if mentioning chemical-related health harms. Maximizing the understandability of HPHC quantity information while minimizing misleadingness will be challenging.

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Keywords: CHEMICALS; CIGARETTES; FDA; TOBACCO CONTROL; TOBACCO REGULATION

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 October 2017

More about this publication?
  • Tobacco Regulatory Science (Electronic ISSN 2333-9748) is a rigorously peer-reviewed online scientific journal for the dissemination of research relevant to the regulation of tobacco products. The journal content includes a broad array of research domains, including chemistry, biology, behavior, community, and population-level surveillance and epidemiology, as well as knowledge syntheses (eg, meta-analyses or state-of-the-art reviews) and analytic modeling. All articles describe the policy relevance of the research outcomes. Given the global nature of tobacco regulation, particularly as a result of international and national policies, Tobacco Regulatory Science publishes high quality research that is relevant to global regulatory needs and requirements. Tobacco Regulatory Science is published electronically 6 times per year.
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