Cigarette packaging and health warnings: The impact of plain packaging and message framing on young smokers

Darren Mays, Raymond S. Niaura, W. Douglas Evans, David Hammond, George Luta, Kenneth P. Tercyak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective This study examined the impact of pictorial cigarette-warning labels, warning-label message framing and plain cigarette packaging, on young adult smokers’ motivation to quit. Methods Smokers aged 18–30 years (n=740) from a consumer research panel were randomised to one of four experimental conditions where they viewed online images of four cigarette packs with warnings about lung disease, cancer, stroke/heart disease and death, respectively. Packs differed across conditions by warningmessage framing (gain vs loss) and packaging (branded vs plain). Measures captured demographics, smoking behaviour, covariates and motivation to quit in response to cigarette packs. Results Pictorial warnings about lung disease and cancer generated the strongest motivation to quit across conditions. Adjusting for pretest motivation and covariates, a message framing by packaging interaction revealed gain-framed warnings on plain packs generated greater motivation to quit for lung disease, cancer and mortality warnings ( p<0.05), compared with loss-framed warnings on plain packs. Conclusions Warnings combining pictorial depictions of smoking-related health risks with text-based messages about how quitting reduces risks, may achieve better outcomes among young adults, especially in countries considering or implementing plain packaging regulations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e87-e92
JournalTobacco control
Issue numberE1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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