Adolescent perceptions of cigarette appearance

1 Centre for Tobacco Control Research, Institute for Social Marketing, University of Stirling, Stirlingshire FK9 4LA, UK.
The European Journal of Public Health (Impact Factor: 2.59). 10/2013; 24(3). DOI: 10.1093/eurpub/ckt161
Source: PubMed


To reduce the possibility of cigarette appearance misleading consumers about harm caused by the product, the European Commission's draft Tobacco Products Directive proposed banning cigarettes <7.5 mm in diameter. It appears however, following a plenary vote in the European Parliament, that this will not be part of the final Tobacco Products Directive. To reduce the appeal of cigarettes, the Australian Government banned the use of branding on cigarettes and stipulated a maximum cigarette length as part of the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act. We explored the role, if any, of cigarette appearance on perceptions of appeal and harm among adolescents.
Focus group research with 15-year-olds (N = 48) was conducted in Glasgow (Scotland) to explore young people's perceptions of eight cigarettes differing in length, diameter, colour and decorative design.
Slim and superslim cigarettes with white filter tips and decorative features were viewed most favourably and rated most attractive across gender and socio-economic groups. The slimmer diameters of these cigarettes communicated weaker tasting and less harmful looking cigarettes. This was closely linked to appeal as thinness implied a more pleasant and palatable smoke for young smokers. A long brown cigarette was viewed as particularly unattractive and communicated a stronger and more harmful product.
This exploratory study provides some support that standardising cigarette appearance could reduce the appeal of cigarettes in adolescents and reduce the opportunity for stick design to mislead young smokers in terms of harm.

    • "Theoretically, the unattractive colours used in dissuasive (or plain) packaging give rise to cognitive dissonance that undermines the benefits smokers gain from smoking (Festinger, 1975). For many years, marketers have recognised that colours not only denote physical product attributes but create connotations that shape how consumers experience specific brands (Aslam, 2006; Agarwal and Teas, 2000). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Purpose Australia’s decision to introduce plain packaging has aroused international attention and stimulated interest in complementary initiatives. To date, research attention has focused on external packaging and few studies have examined the physical objects of consumption – cigarette sticks. We investigated how young adult women smokers, a group the tobacco industry has specifically targeted, interpreted dissuasive sticks. Design/methodology/approach We conducted two focus groups and 13 in-depth interviews using purposive recruitment. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis. Findings We identified three overarching themes: smoking as an act of overt and conspicuous consumption; cigarette sticks as accoutrements of social acceptability, and dissuasive colors as deconstructors of the social façade smokers construct. Dissuasive sticks challenged connotations of cleanliness participants sought, exposed smoking as “dirty”, and connoted stereotypes participants wanted to avoid. Research limitations/implications Although small-scale qualitative studies provide rich insights into participants’ responses, experimental work is required to estimate how a wider population comprising more varied smoker sub-groups responds to dissuasive sticks. Practical implications As policy makers internationally consider introducing plain packaging, they should examine whether dissuasive sticks could enhance measures regulating the external appearance of tobacco packages. Originality/value This is the first study to explore how dissuasive sticks would distance smoking from the social identity smokers seek. The findings provide a platform for experimental work that estimates the potential behavioral outcomes dissuasive sticks could stimulate.
    No preview · Article · Dec 2014 · Journal of Social Marketing

  • No preview · Article · Nov 2013 · BMJ (online)
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Cigarette rod length as a design feature may play a specific role in harm perception and tobacco use. Internal tobacco industry documents have shown targeting of females with long/ultra-long cigarettes. This study assessed trends and differences in smoking of long/ultra-long cigarettes among U.S. smokers aged ≥20 years during 1999 through 2012. Data were obtained from the 1999/2000 through 2011/2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The proportion of current smokers who reported using long/ultra-long cigarettes during each survey year was calculated and compared using χ(2) statistics. Linear and quadratic trends during 1999 through 2012 were assessed using binary logistic regression (p<0.05). Multi-variable analyses were performed to assess current disparities in smoking of long/ultra-long cigarettes. Despite overall declines in current smoking of long/ultra-long cigarettes during the 1999 through 2012 period (p<0.001 for both linear and quadratic trends), the proportion of smokers of long/ultra-long brands increased in recent years, with over a third (38.7%) of current smokers reporting smoking of long/ultra-long cigarettes during 2011/2012. Current smokers of long/ultra-long cigarettes were more likely to be female compared to males (aOR=3.09; 95%CI: 2.09-4.58), of black race compared to whites (aOR=2.07; 95%CI: 1.30-3.28), or aged 45-64, or ≥65 years (aOR=2.39 and 5.27, respectively), compared to 18-24 year olds. Specific gender, age and race/ethnic characteristics of smokers of long/ultra-long cigarettes were noted, hence potentially contributing to the widening of health disparities. Cigarette rod length should be considered an important aspect of cigarette engineering/design in regulatory efforts to reduce the burden of tobacco-related disease.
    No preview · Article · Dec 2013 · Drug and alcohol dependence
Show more