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Effects of Large Cigarette Warning Labels on Smokers' Expected Longevity

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Objectives: Smokers underestimate the health risks of smoking and overestimate their expected longevity. Warning labels on cigarette packs might help correct these misperceptions. Methods: We carried out an online study with 1200 smokers (18-62 years old), randomized to 3 conditions: text warning labels, pictorial warning labels, and a control group (water bottle labels). Warning labels were based on those proposed by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2010. Participants in each condition saw 4 randomly selected labels and rated their expected longevity and chances of surviving to age 75 after exposure. Analyses of covariance controlled for cigarettes per day and self-rated health. Results: Compared to control, both text and pictorial warnings reduced participants' expected longevity (text: mean = 76.8 years, pictorial: 77.3, control 79.4) and their estimated chances of living to 75 (text: 62.0%, pictorial: 63.0%, control 66.5%). The contrast between text and pictorial labels combined and control showed significantly reduced expected longevity (p = .011) and chances of living to 75 (p = .004). Differences between text and pictorial conditions were not statistically significant. Conclusions: Large text or pictorial warnings on cigarette packs might help smokers develop a more accurate understanding of the effects of smoking on their longevity.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, University of California, San Fransisco CA 2: Department of Medicine, Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, University of California, San Francisco, CA

Publication date: 01 March 2018

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  • The American Journal of Health Behavior seeks to improve the quality of life through multidisciplinary health efforts in fostering a better understanding of the multidimensional nature of both individuals and social systems as they relate to health behaviors.

    The Journal aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the impact of personal attributes, personality characteristics, behavior patterns, social structure, and processes on health maintenance, health restoration, and health improvement; to disseminate knowledge of holistic, multidisciplinary approaches to designing and implementing effective health programs; and to showcase health behavior analysis skills that have been proven to affect health improvement and recovery.

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