INTRODUCTION: The US Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act requires the government to disseminate information about the toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke. We sought to understand how the descriptors "organic," "natural," or "additive-free" affect smokers' interest in cigarettes in the context of information about chemicals in cigarette smoke.
METHODS: Participants were a national probability sample of 1,101 US adult (ages ≥18) smokers recruited in 2014-2015. A between-subjects experiment randomized participants in a telephone survey to 1 of 4 cigarette descriptors: "organic," "natural," "additive-free," or "ultra-light" (control). The outcome was expected interest in cigarettes with the experimentally assigned descriptor, after learning that 2 chemicals (hydrogen cyanide and lead) are in cigarette smoke. Experimental data analysis was conducted in 2016-2017.
RESULTS: Smokers indicated greater expected interest in "organic," "natural," and "additive-free" cigarettes than "ultra-light" cigarettes (all p <.001) after learning that hydrogen cyanide and lead were in cigarette smoke. Smokers who intended to quit in the next 6 months expressed greater expected interest in the 4 types of cigarettes ("organic," "natural," "additive-free," and "ultra-light") compared to smokers not intending to quit (p <.001).
CONCLUSIONS: Smokers, especially those intending to quit, may be more inclined towards cigarettes described as "organic," "natural," and "additive-free" in the context of chemical information. An accumulating body of evidence shows that the US should fully restrict use of "organic" and "natural" descriptors for tobacco products as it has done for "additive-free" and "light" descriptors.