Review of the Research on Tobacco Warning Labels, With Particular Emphasis on the New Canadian Warning Labels

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A Review of the Research on Tobacco Warning Labels, With Particular

Emphasis on the New Canadian Warning Labels

Geoffrey T. Fong, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Department of Psychology

University of Waterloo
March 30, 2001



I. Professional Background and Experience

II. Introduction
A. Tobacco Package Warning Labels as a Public Health Intervention

B. Canadian Warning Labels

III. Description of the New Canadian Tobacco Warning Labels
A. Outside Warning Labels—Description and Analysis of Text: Warning + Explanation

B. Outside Warning Labels—The Use of Vivid and Graphic Photographs

C. Inside Messages: Providing Efficacy Information for Quitting
IV. Psychological Research and Models Relevant to Understanding the Possible Effects of the New Canadian Cigarette Warning Labels
A. The Information Processing Model of Judgment and Decision Making

B. The Heuristic-Systematic Model

C. Factors That Influence the Salience, Noticeability, and Possible Effectiveness of Warning Labels

D. The Wear-Out (or Overexposure) Effect

E. Size of Labels

F. Position

G. The Use of Vivid and Graphic Photographs

H. Analysis of the New Tobacco Warning Labels With Respect to Research on Fear Appeals

I. Conclusions of the Research on Fear Appeals
V. Other Research Relevant to Evaluating the New Canadian Warning Labels
A. Knowledge of the Health Consequences of Smoking

B. The Insufficiency of Knowledge About Likelihood and the Importance of Perceived Severity

VI. Errors and Biases in Judgment and Decision-Making
A. People are Limited Information Processors—Bounded Rationality

B. The Importance of Considering Long-Term Consequences vs. Short-Term Benefits

C. Young People’s Perceptions of the Likelihood and Consequences of Health Behaviours

D. The Importance of Considering the Effects of Addiction in Smoking-Related Decision Making, Judgments, and Behaviours

E. The Role of Warning Labels in Communication Information About Addiction (and the Importance of Providing Efficacy Information About Quitting)
VII. Conclusions
VIII. References
I. Professional Background and Experience
I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Waterloo. I received my A.B. in psychology at Stanford University and my Ph.D. in social psychology at the University of Michigan. I held faculty positions in the Psychology Departments at Northwestern University and Princeton University before coming to the University of Waterloo in 1988.
In the first part of my professional career, I conducted research in the areas of decision-making and judgment, specifically, how and why people engage in errors and biases in reasoning, and what kinds of methods could be effective in reducing those errors and biases. In this regard, I studied real-life decision making. I demonstrated that through education and formal training, people could reduce the errors and biases they make in everyday life. That research was published in a variety of journals including Science, Cognitive Psychology, and Journal of Experimental Psychology.
For the past 13 years, my research has focused on health behaviour. Over two-thirds of my 80 journal articles, chapters, and peer-reviewed papers presented at professional conferences have dealt with some aspect of health behaviour. In one line of research, our research team created, implemented, and evaluated a behavioural intervention to reduce risky sexual behaviour among inner-city adolescents in various urban communities in the U.S. We demonstrated that it was indeed possible to teach young people to be more likely to practice safer sex. Our research has been published in journals including the Journal of the American Medical Association, American Journal of Public Health, and American Journal of Community Psychology. Over the past 13 years, I have had considerable contact with youth and have had the opportunity to gain an understanding of their perceptions of health risk, and the relationship between health risk and behaviour, not only in the domain of sexual behaviour but also in the domain of smoking and other substance use.
I also have background in risk communication research, particularly in methods for communicating risk. In 1998, I was an invited discussant to a workshop sponsored by the National Cancer Institute of the United States, “Cancer Risk Communication: What We Know and What We Need to Learn.” The workshop was a gathering of world experts in the domain of health risk perception and communication. The articles and commentary from that workshop were published in a special monograph of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in 1999.
I have expertise in multivariate statistics and research methodology. For over 15 years I have been an instructor in the ICPSR Summer Statistics Program at the University of Michigan, and I have taught graduate courses in multivariate statistics, linear models, structural equation modeling, and research design (including both experimental and survey methods) at Princeton and Waterloo.
I have extensive experience on scientific review committees and in journal reviewing. From 1994 to 1998, I was a member of the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health AIDS and Immunology Scientific Review Committee, and I have served as a member of a number of special scientific review committees at the National Institutes of Health as well as at the Social Science and Humanities Research Council and the National Science and Engineering Research Council. I am currently a Consulting Editor of the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin and recently was offered a position as Associate Editor of Psychology and Health (although I declined the offer). I have also served as a reviewer for scientific journals across a very broad range of disciplines.
I was asked to review the relevant research on tobacco warning labels, particularly with respect to the research in psychology and related disciplines.

II. Introduction

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