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Research Helps Inform New Federal Rule to Require Pictorial Cigarette Warning Labels

RTI researchers studied combined reactions of over 12,000 participants in two research studies to help inform new rule

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — In collaboration with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), researchers at RTI International, a nonprofit research institute, have released two studies in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research. The studies described in these articles helped shape a new federal rule, published on March 18, requiring new pictorial cigarette health warnings on all cigarette packaging and advertising by June of 2021.

The two studies, which involved a total of nearly 12,300 adolescents and adults, examined reactions to standalone textual warning statements and textual warnings combined with color images in pictorial warnings. The results helped the FDA select the warnings required in the final rule.

“Our primary goal was to provide scientific support for the FDA’s rulemaking regarding new cigarette health warnings,” said Jessica Pepper, PhD, Social Scientist at RTI and lead author on both studies. “We wanted to help identify the warnings that could make the greatest impact on informing individuals about the harms of smoking.”

Overall, the studies show that updated textual warning statements and the addition of color images rendered an increased understanding of the less well-known risks associated with cigarette smoking relative to the current warnings used on cigarette packages and advertisements.

 “There is already a large body of research showing that pictorial warnings can educate the public about the risk of smoking,” said Pepper. “Our studies have shown that although most people generally understand that smoking is harmful, there are still substantial gaps in their knowledge of smoking-related health conditions. Our hope is that the new labels ultimately contribute to greater public understanding of the less well-known negative health consequences of smoking.”

To read the studies, please visit here and here.