Penn study shows smokers assume false sense of safety from ads for low nicotine Quest cigarettes

A study by researchers at the Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found that many smokers make false inferences about the safety of new low nicotine Quest cigarettes. This research appears in the March issue of Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

"This study is the first to evaluate how regular smokers responded to a print ad for Quest cigarettes, a newly developed cigarette marketed as a way to gradually reduce nicotine exposure via smoking cigarettes that are lower in nicotine," said author Caryn Lerman, PhD, Associate Director for Cancer Control and Population Science at the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania, and Professor in Penn's School of Medicine and the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

Quest cigarettes are a brand of low-nicotine cigarettes manufactured by Vector Tobacco, Inc., and currently marketed in eight US states. Quest cigarettes, both regular and menthol, are manufactured with three progressively lower nicotine levels and marketed as allowing smokers to "step-down" nicotine levels to enjoy "nicotine-free smoking." Anti-smoking advocates highlight the long-term health effects like cancer and emphysema that result from a lifetime of smoking or chewing tobacco. These maladies, however, are the result of chemicals in cigarettes other than nicotine. While Quest cigarettes do offer reduced nicotine levels, they do not have progressively less tar and thus, still pose significant health risks. Given evidence that many smokers misinterpret the information contained in marketing campaigns for such "light" cigarettes it is important to understand how smokers perceive this newly marketed low nicotine cigarette.

Lerman led a research team that examined the response of 200 regular smokers to a Quest cigarette print advertisement using a mall intercept survey approach. Participants viewed a single Quest cigarette print advertisement and then were as

Contact: Olivia Fermano
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

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