Understanding How Graphic Pictorial Warnings Work on Cigarette Packaging

Jeremy Kees, Scot Burton, J. Craig Andrews, and John Kozup
Journal of Public Policy & Marketing
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Executive Summary
The 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (S.982, H.R. 1256) will require cigarette packages in the United States to contain stronger warnings in the form of color, graphic pictures displaying the negative health consequences of smoking. Given the passage of this key U.S. tobacco legislation, the effects related to varying graphic pictorial warnings are clearly a critical issue that has emerged for public health and policy officials in the United States. The authors present results from a between-subjects experiment with more than 500 U.S. and Canadian smokers that test (1) the effectiveness of pictorial warnings that vary in their level of the graphic depiction of the warning and (2) an underlying mechanism (i.e., fear) proposed to drive potential effects of the manipulation of the graphic depiction.

The findings indicate that the more graphic the depiction of the health consequence of smoking, the stronger are the effects on evoked fear and intentions to quit smoking. Thus, there was evidence for an increasing monotonic effect of strengthening the graphic depiction of the pictorial warning. In addition, evoked fear mediated the effect of the graphic pictorial warnings on intentions to quit smoking. The results also indicate that recall of the warning message statement on the package was reduced by moderately or highly graphic pictorial warnings versus a no-picture control or less graphic pictorial warnings.

Thus, this research shows that strong (negative) graphic imagery and the fear evoked from such graphic imagery can influence smokers’ intentions to quit in the absence of effects of message recall on intentions to quit. As public health and public policy officials in the United States and around the world consider potential changes to warnings on cigarette packages, the addition of pictorial warnings to text-based messages appears beneficial, and more graphic depictions of the pictorial warnings appear capable of producing stronger effects for adult smokers than less graphic depictions. The findings from this study show that at least moderately graphic pictures should be used, and there appears to be little downside from using extremely graphic pictorial depictions of the negative health outcomes from smoking. Conversely, the least graphic pictures had no additional effect on intentions to quit relative to the no-picture control group, indicating that the inclusion of any pictorial warning on a package is not necessarily beneficial.

Biography
Jeremy Kees is Assistant Professor of Marketing at Villanova University. His research interests include intertemporal choice, consumer risk, and advertising/promotions effectiveness. His recent public policy–related research examines cigarette warning labels, consumer processing of nutrition information, food supplement claims, and direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising. His research has been published in various journals, including Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, American Journal of Public Health, Journal of Advertising, Journal of Interactive Marketing, Psychology & Marketing, Journal of Consumer Affairs, and Journal of Current Issues and Research in Advertising, among others.

J. Craig Andrews is Professor and Charles H. Kellstadt Chair in Marketing at Marquette University. His research interests focus primarily on advertising and public health issues. Andrews currently serves on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Risk Communication Advisory Committee, has served on the Behavior Change Expert Panel for the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, was editor of Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, and was a consumer research specialist in the Division of Advertising Practices with the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, DC. Professor Andrews’ work has appeared in Journal of Marketing, Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Advertising, Journal of Current Issues and Research in Advertising, Journal of International Business Studies, Journal of Retailing, and American Journal of Public Health, among others.

Scot Burton is Professor and Wal-Mart Chair in Marketing in the Department of Marketing and Logistics, Sam M. Walton College of Business, at the University of Arkansas. His research interests include public policy and consumer welfare concerns, pricing and promotion issues, and survey research measurement issues. In addition to Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, his research has been published in Journal of Marketing, Journal of Marketing Research, Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Applied Psychology, American Journal of Public Health, Journal of Retailing, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Public Opinion Quarterly, and Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, among other journals.

John C. Kozup is Associate Professor of Marketing at Villanova University and founding director of the Villanova University Center for Marketing and Public Policy Research. Dr. Kozup also serves as the associate editor of the International Journal of Advertising. Professor Kozup’s research interests are in the areas of information processing and decision making—specifically, consumers’ evaluation of product labels and disclosures. His work has appeared in journal outlets such as Journal of Marketing, Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Journal of Consumer Affairs, Psychology & Marketing, Journal of Consumer Policy, and Journal of Applied Social Psychology. Additional editorial responsibilities include serving as a special editor for the Journal of Consumer Affairs special issue on “Financial Literacy and Consumers’ Self Protection.” Dr. Kozup serves as a senior advisor for business education and government affairs to the National Italian American Foundation.

Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, Volume 29, Number 2, Fall 2010
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Jeremy Kees, Scot Burton, J. Craig Andrews, and John Kozup
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