Graphic Warning Labels in Cigarette Advertisements

This article examines recall and viewing patterns among text-only versus larger, more visible graphic warning labels in cigarette advertisements.

Two-hundred current smokers, aged 21–65, were randomized to view a cigarette advertisement with either a text-only warning, or one with a more graphic warning displayed prominently on the page. The 75-minute viewing sessions took place from November 2008 through November 2009 and logistic regression analysis was performed from March 2011 through July 2011.

To assess recall, participants typed in what the warning label read. Eye-tracking was assessed using Gazetracker software and measured by Eye-Trac 6. Specific measures of interest included: dwell time, fixations, and time to first viewing of area of interest.

Key Findings:

  • Correct recall of the warning label was 50 percent in the text-only versus 83 percent in the graphic warning label, and the difference was significant.
  • Warning labels that drew attention more quickly with longer dwell times were associated with better recall.

Due to a new mandate, graphic warning labels will be embedded in cigarette advertisements by September 2012 and will occupy a minimum of 20 percent of the ad space. Results from this study indicate that more graphic warning labels result in increased recall. Graphic warning labels should be incorporated promptly to aid U.S. tobacco control.