Reactions to graphic health warnings in the United States

Health Educ Res. 2015 Feb;30(1):46-56. doi: 10.1093/her/cyu036. Epub 2014 Jun 27.


This study reports consumer reactions to the graphic health warnings selected by the Food and Drug Administration to be placed on cigarette packs in the United States. We recruited three sets of respondents for an experimental study from a national opt-in e-mail list sample: (i) current smokers aged 25 or older, (ii) young adult smokers aged 18-24 and (iii) youth aged 13-17 who are current smokers or who may be susceptible to initiation of smoking. Participants were randomly assigned to be exposed to a pack of cigarettes with one of nine graphic health warnings or with a text-only warning statement. All three age groups had overall strong negative emotional (ß = 4.7, P < 0.001 for adults; ß = 4.6, P < 0.001 for young adults and ß = 4.0, P < 0.001 for youth) and cognitive (ß = 2.4, P < 0.001 for adults; ß = 3.0, P < 0.001 for young adults and ß = 4.6, P < 0.001 for youth) reactions to the proposed labels. The strong negative emotional and cognitive reactions following a single exposure to the graphic health warnings suggest that, with repeated exposures over time, graphic health warnings may influence smokers' beliefs, intentions and behaviors.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cognition*
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Promotion / methods
  • Humans
  • Intention
  • Male
  • Product Labeling / methods*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Smoking / psychology*
  • Smoking Cessation / psychology
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Tobacco Products / adverse effects*
  • United States
  • Young Adult