Understanding how perceptions of tobacco constituents and the FDA relate to effective and credible tobacco risk messaging: A national phone survey of U.S. adults, 2014-2015

BMC Public Health. 2016 Jun 23;16:516. doi: 10.1186/s12889-016-3151-5.


Background: The passage of the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act has necessitated the execution of timely, innovative, and policy-relevant tobacco control research to inform Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulatory and messaging efforts. With recent dramatic changes to tobacco product availability and patterns of use, nationally representative data on tobacco-related perceptions and behaviors are vital, especially for vulnerable populations.

Methods: The UNC Center for Regulatory Research on Tobacco Communication conducted a telephone survey with a national sample of adults ages 18 and older living in the United States (U.S.). The survey assessed regulatory relevant factors such as tobacco product use, tobacco constituent perceptions, and tobacco regulatory agency credibility. The study oversampled high smoking/low income areas as well as cell phone numbers to ensure adequate representation among smokers and young adults, respectively. Coverage extended to approximately 98 % of U.S. households.

Results: The final dataset (N = 5,014) generated weighted estimates that were largely comparable to other national demographic and tobacco use estimates. Results revealed that over one quarter of U.S. adults, and over one third of smokers, reported having looked for information about tobacco constituents in cigarette smoke; however, the vast majority was unaware of what constituents might actually be present. Although only a minority of people reported trust in the federal government, two thirds felt that the FDA can effectively regulate tobacco products.

Conclusions: As the FDA continues their regulatory and messaging activities, they should expand both the breadth and availability of constituent-related information, targeting these efforts to reach all segments of the U.S. population, especially those disproportionately vulnerable to tobacco product use and its associated negative health outcomes.

Keywords: Cigarette smoking; Communication; Constituents; Non-cigarette tobacco product; Tobacco use.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Public Health
  • Smoking Cessation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Smoking Prevention*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Telephone
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration
  • Young Adult