February 10, 2019

Stanton A. Glantz, PhD

Tobacco companies use colors to communicate product claims to kids, too

Lauren Lempert and I published a paper showing that the cigarette companies use colors in the packaging to affect how smokers perceive  the strength and taste of products even when the companies don’t change the physical cigarette.  We argued that the FDA should treat pack colors as an “ingredient” and consider packaging changes when evaluation substantial equivalence claims made by cigarette companies to get their new products approved.  Other investigators (cited in our paper) had shown that the companies use colors to get around the legal prohibitions of using words like “light” and “mild” to make misleading health claims.

Now Karma McKelvey,  Bonnie Halpern-Felsher and their colleagues at Stanford have shown the same thing for kids. 

Their paper,  “A cigarette pack by any other color: Youth perceptions mostly align with tobacco industry-ascribed meanings “ published in Preventive Medicine Reports shows that youth do perceive specific and industry-meaning messages from the colors of cigarette packs. 

The FDA needs to act on this information and clamp down on the industry’s use of colors to get around the law.  This paper also provides additional support for plain packaging that is spreading around the world.

Here are the highlights of the paper:

  • Youth interpret cigarette pack-colors in line with industry-intended associations.
  • Product-packaging restrictions may be circumvented by use of colors that misrepresent product harms.
  • 43.2% of participants attributed extra strong to the black cigarette pack.
  • 35.6% of participants ascribed rich to gold.
  • 31.1% of participants ascribed menthol to green.

The full citation is McKelvey K, et al.   A cigarette pack by any other color: Youth perceptions mostly align with tobacco industry-ascribed meanings.  Preventive Medicine Reports 2019.  First published version available online: 8-FEB-2019.   DOI: 10.1016/j.pmedr.2019.100830.  It is available here.


Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.