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NAQC Newsroom: Research

The Influence of Health Numeracy and Health Warning Label Type on Smoking Myths and Quit-Related Rea

Monday, August 5, 2019  
Posted by: Natalia Gromov
Elizabeth G Klein, Amanda J Quisenberry, Abigail B Shoben, Dan Romer, Ellen Peters.
The Influence of Health Numeracy and Health Warning Label Type on Smoking Myths and Quit-Related Reactions.
Nicotine & Tobacco Research, Volume 21, Issue 7, July 2019, Pages 974–978,
Health numeracy helps individuals understand risk information, but limited data exist concerning numeracy’s role in reactions to varying types of health warning labels (HWLs) for cigarettes. A nationally representative online panel of adult current smokers received two exposures (1 week apart) to nine HWLs with either text-only or pictorial images with identical mandated text. Following the second exposure, participants (n = 594) rated their beliefs in smoking myths (eg, health-promoting behaviors can undo the risks of smoking) and how much the warnings made them want to quit smoking. Generalized estimating equation regression examined the relation of objective health numeracy and its interaction with HWL type to smoking-myth beliefs and quit-related reactions. Health numeracy was not significantly associated with smoking-myth beliefs; the interaction with HWL type was also nonsignificant. Adult smokers with lower health numeracy had higher quit-related reactions than those with higher numeracy following exposure to HWLs. The type of HWL significantly modified numeracy’s associations with quit-related reactions; no significant association existed between text-only HWLs and quit-related reactions, whereas among those who viewed the pictorial warnings, lower numeracy was associated with greater quit-related reactions (β = −.23; p < .001). Lower as compared to higher health numeracy was significantly associated with higher quit-related reactions to HWLs and especially with pictorial HWLs. Health numeracy and HWL type were not associated with the endorsement of smoking myths. The role of health numeracy in effectively communicating risks to smokers warrants thoughtful consideration in the development of tobacco HWLs. Health numeracy plays an important role in an individual’s ability to understand and respond to health risks. Smokers with lower health numeracy had greater quit-related reactions to pictorial health warnings than those who viewed text-only warning labels. Development and testing of health warning labels should consider health numeracy to most effectively communicate risk to US smokers.


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