Roswell Park Studies Conclude That Cigarette Packaging Needs To Change

by Jenny Novac on May 20, 2011

The messages that cigarette pack labels convey to smokers and nonsmokers have been evaluated by Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) researchers in three studies published in the June 2011 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The conclusion from these studies is that manufacturers have deceived consumers about the risks of their products for years and that remedial actions are needed so consumers can make informed decisions about the products that they purchase.

Cigarettes pack

“Tobacco companies have used attractive packaging and persuasive images to market their products for decades. These studies support efforts by the FDA to regulate cigarette pack labeling,” said lead author Maansi Bansal-Travers, PhD, Behavioral Research Scientist at RPCI.

Tobacco manufacturers have effectively used cigarette pack design, colors and descriptive terms to create the illusion that filtered and so-called light/mild cigarettes are safer than unfiltered and full-flavor cigarettes, when this is not the case. Beginning in June 2010, regulations contained in the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act have prohibited tobacco companies from using descriptive terms such as “light,” “mild” or “low” in advertising and on cigarette packaging. “While the removal of these obviously misleading terms was a good first step, we discovered that cigarette manufacturers have circumvented the regulation by using different terms such as ‘gold’ and ‘silver’ and changing the colors on packs to continue to mislead consumers about their products,” said Dr. Bansal-Travers.

Cigarettes warning labels

The paper titled “What Do Cigarette Pack Colors Communicate to Smokers in the U.S.?” found that both colors and descriptors are perceived by smokers to communicate health-risk information. The authors recommend that color-coding be restricted in the same way that descriptors have been to reduce consumer misperceptions.

The paper titled “The Impact of Cigarette Pack Design, Descriptor, and Warning Labels on Risk Perception in the U.S.” found that larger graphic health warnings that convey negative messages are the most effective in communicating health risks to adults and that packs with descriptors such as “smooth” or “silver,” or in specific colors, misleadingly conveyed lower health risks to consumers. The authors concluded that manufacturers should be barred from using any labeling that might be misperceived by consumers and that all cigarettes be sold in standardized plain packs.

The third paper, titled “Correcting Over 50 Years of Tobacco Industry Misinformation,” analyzed proposed corrective statements required by U.S. federal court in the Department of Justice case against cigarette manufacturers.The authors also recommended that these statements be printed on cigarette packs and at the point of sale.

K. Michael Cummings, PhD, MPH, Chair of the Department of Health Behavior at RPCI, added, “These studies reveal how consumers are likely to respond to government-mandated changes in package labeling and offer insights and recommendations about how to correct decades of misleading product marketing, so that consumers can make more informed choices about the products they purchase.”

One Response to “Roswell Park Studies Conclude That Cigarette Packaging Needs To Change”

  • Largo says:

    Terms like “light”, “mild”, and “silver” are not meant to imply that a cigarette is any safer than its “full -flavored” counterpart. They merely mean the cigarette has a ring of tiny holes around the filter that allows small amounts of air to mix with the smoke during inhalation, providing a lighter flavor. Anyone who thinks it means a cigarette is any safer is a moron.

    It’s not a case of tobacco companies misleading consumers, but a description of the cigarette itself. Makers need some term to differentiate these from other cigarettes. If not “light”, “mild”, “silver”, or “low”, what would you suggest?

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