Removing tar information from cigarette packages may reduce South Korean smokers' misconceptions about low-tar cigarettes
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Hanyang University, Department of Advertising & Public Relations, Korea, Republic of
Publication date: 2018-03-01
Tob. Induc. Dis. 2018;16(Suppl 1):A193
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Many smokers still have misconceptions about “light” or “low tar” cigarettes. In South Korea, low-tar (< 3 mg) cigarette sales have increased sharply from 1.8% in 2002 to 49.2% in 2015. Although government regulations forbid cigarette packages from displaying messages such as “mild,” “low-tar,” and “light,” numbers indicating tar amounts are still permitted. This study examines whether removing tar information from packaging altogether reduces people's misconceptions about low tar cigarettes.

An online experiment was conducted among 531 smokers who were randomly assigned to one of two conditions. In the &#8220;tar&#8221; condition, 271 participants were shown in random order three cigarette packages for three major brands (Esse, The One, Marlboro) with different tar amounts. In the &#8220;no-tar&#8221; condition, 260 participants were shown the same packages without tar information. Next, participants evaluated which type of cigarette was mildest, least harmful, easier for nonsmokers to start smoking, and easier for smokers to quit. After descriptive statistics were checked, twelve sets of chi-square tests were performed.

Average age of the participants was 26.22 (14 - 62 years); 53.5% were male. All 12 chi-square tests were statistically significant. Participants in the tar condition judged the lowest-tar cigarette to be mildest, least harmful, easier to start, and easier to quit. In the no-tar condition, for the Korean brands Esse and The One, most respondents evaluated all cigarette types to be the same only for harm, ease of starting, and ease of quitting; for Marlboro, judgments were the same as those in the tar condition except that &#8220;easier to quit&#8221; was judged to be the same across the three types.

Banning tar information from cigarette packages may help reduce smokers' misconceptions about low-tar cigarettes. People have inconsistent judgments about differently packaged cigarettes when tar information is absent.

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