Mediational pathways of the impact of cigarette warning labels on quit attempts

Health Psychol. 2014 Nov;33(11):1410-20. doi: 10.1037/hea0000056. Epub 2014 Jun 30.


Objective: To test and develop, using structural equation modeling, a robust model of the mediational pathways through which health warning labels exert their influence on smokers' subsequent quitting behavior.

Method: Data come from the International Tobacco Control Four-Country Survey, a longitudinal cohort study conducted in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Waves 5-6 data (n = 4,988) were used to calibrate the hypothesized model of warning label impact on subsequent quit attempts via a set of policy-specific and general psychosocial mediators. The finalized model was validated using Waves 6-7 data (n = 5065).

Results: As hypothesized, warning label salience was positively associated with thoughts about risks of smoking stimulated by the warnings (β = .58, p < .001), which in turn were positively related to increased worry about negative outcomes of smoking (β = .52, p < .001); increased worry in turn predicted stronger intention to quit (β = .39, p < .001), which was a strong predictor of subsequent quit attempts (β = .39, p < .001). This calibrated model was successfully replicated using Waves 6-7 data.

Conclusion: Health warning labels seem to influence future quitting attempts primarily through their ability to stimulate thoughts about the risks of smoking, which in turn help to raise smoking-related health concerns, which lead to stronger intentions to quit, a known key predictor of future quit attempts for smokers. By making warning labels more salient and engaging, they should have a greater chance to change behavior.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Cohort Studies
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intention*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Product Labeling*
  • Smoking / psychology*
  • Smoking Cessation / psychology*
  • Tobacco Products / adverse effects*
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Young Adult