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NAQC Newsroom: Research

Examining Risk Perceptions Among Daily Smokers Naive to Reduced Nicotine Content Cigarettes.

Monday, May 14, 2018  
Posted by: Natalia Gromov
Melissa Mercincavage, Kirsten Lochbuehler, Andrea C Villanti, E Paul Wileyto, Janet Audrain-McGovern, Andrew A Strasser.
Examining Risk Perceptions Among Daily Smokers Naive to Reduced Nicotine Content Cigarettes.
Nicotine & Tobacco Research, nty082,
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stated its interest in reducing the addictiveness of combustible cigarettes by lowering their nicotine content. Delineating risk perceptions of reduced nicotine content (RNC) cigarettes prior to federal regulation may inform the content of future educational campaigns accompanying this policy. 500 non-treatment-seeking, daily smokers naïve to RNC cigarettes (63.0% male, 51.6% non-White, mean [SD] cigarettes per day = 15.69 [7.58], age = 43.44 [11.46]) completed a 10-item RNC cigarette risk perception questionnaire at baseline in two, unrelated experimental studies. We used multinomial logistic regression models to identify demographic (e.g., gender) and smoking-related (e.g., nicotine dependence) correlates of RNC cigarette risk perceptions. While the majority of participants did not misperceive RNC cigarettes as less harmful than regular or high nicotine cigarettes, a large portion of the sample held misperceptions about RNC cigarettes’ addictiveness (56.4%) and cessation aid potential (63.4%). More than 20% of the sample reported being unsure about RNC-related risks, especially tar content (51.8%). Non-White smokers were 2.5 to 3 times more likely to be incorrect about multiple RNC cigarette risks (p’s = .002 - .006). If the FDA mandates a reduced nicotine content standard for cigarettes, educational campaigns will be needed to correct misperceptions about RNC cigarettes’ addictiveness and potential to aid cessation as well as inform consumers about their safety risks. Campaigns tailored toward non-White smokers may also be needed to correct misperceptions of RNC cigarette risks held by this subgroup. The FDA has stated its interest in reducing cigarettes’ addictiveness by lowering their nicotine content, enabling smokers to quit. Our findings suggest that most smokers who have not used RNC cigarettes do not perceive these products as less addictive or as cessation tools, stressing a need for future educational campaigns to correct these misperceptions. Campaigns are also needed to educate uninformed smokers about RNC cigarettes, and should consider targeting messages toward subgroups likely to hold misperceptions about the risks and benefits of using these products (e.g., non-White smokers).

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