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Do Young Adults Perceive That Cigarette Graphic Warnings Provide New Knowledge About the Harms of Smoking?



Although much research on graphic cigarette warnings has focused on motivational responses, little focus has been given to how much individuals learn from these labels.


This study aims to investigate whether graphic warnings provide greater perceived new knowledge of smoking consequences compared to text-only warnings, and to test a mediational model whereby perceived new knowledge promotes discouragement from smoking through its impact on worry.


In two studies, young adult smokers and nonsmokers (ages 18–25) evaluated graphic + text and corresponding text-only labels on perceived knowledge, worry about the harms addressed by the warning, and discouragement from smoking.


Compared to text-only labels, graphic + text labels were rated as providing better understanding, more new knowledge, and being more worrisome and discouraging. Perceived new knowledge predicted greater discouragement from smoking directly and through worry.


Graphic warnings may be more efficacious than text-based warnings in increasing knowledge and worry about harms, and discouragement from smoking.

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Fig. 1


  1. Due to the relatively low alphas, we computed separate mediation analyses for personal understanding and perceived new knowledge. Each model yielded identical patterns of findings (tests of the direct and indirect effects were significant at p < .001 in both models), thus we only report the mediation analyses for the combined-item measure.


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This research was supported by research funds provided by Washington State University to the first author.

Conflict of Interest and Adherence to Ethical Standards

Renee Magnan and Linda Cameron declare that they have no conflict of interest. All procedures, including the informed consent process, were conducted in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000.

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Correspondence to Renee E. Magnan PhD.

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Magnan, R.E., Cameron, L.D. Do Young Adults Perceive That Cigarette Graphic Warnings Provide New Knowledge About the Harms of Smoking?. ann. behav. med. 49, 594–604 (2015).

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  • Smoking
  • Graphic label
  • Warnings
  • Knowledge
  • Worry
  • Motivation