Interpersonal communication about pictorial health warnings on cigarette packages: Policy-related influences and relationships with smoking cessation attempts

James F. Thrasher, Erika N. Abad-Vivero, Liling Huang, Richard J. O'Connor, David Hammond, Maansi Bansal-Travers, Hua Hie Yong, Ron Borland, Barry Markovsky, James Hardin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


This study evaluated the relationship between interpersonal communication about cigarette health warning labels (HWLs), psychological responses to HWLs, and smoking cessation attempts. Data were analyzed from online consumer panels of adult smokers in Australia, Canada and Mexico, during implementation of new pictorial health warning labels (HWLs) on cigarette packs. Approximately 1000 adult smokers were surveyed in each country every four months (September 2012, January 2013, May 2013, September 2013, January 2014). Only smokers followed for at least two waves were included in the analytic sample. Participants reported the frequency of talking about HWLs in the last month (in general, with family members, and with friends). For each country, poisson generalized estimating equation (GEE) models were estimated to assess the bivariate and adjusted correlates of talking about HWLs. Logistic GEE models regressed having attempted to quit by the subsequent wave on HWL talk, sociodemographics and psychological responses to HWLs. The frequency of HWL talk gradually decreased in Canada (48%–36%) after new HWLs were implemented; an increase (30%–58%) in Australia corresponded with implementation of new HWLs, after which talking stabilized; and the frequency of HWL talk in Mexico was stable over time, where new HWLs are implemented every six months. Talk about HWLs was an independent predictor of subsequent quit attempts in Canada (AOR = 1.50; 95% CI = 1.11–2.02), Australia (AOR = 1.41; 95% CI = 1.05–1.89), and Mexico (AOR = 1.53; 95% CI = 1.11–2.10), as was cognitive responses to HWLs (Australia AOR = 1.66; 95% CI = 1.22–2.24; Canada AOR = 1.56; 95% CI = 1.15–2.11; Mexico AOR = 1.30; 95% CI = 0.91–1.85). No interaction between talk and cognitive reactions to HWLs were found. These results suggest that interpersonal communication about HWLs influences smoking cessation attempts independent of other established predictors of smoking cessation, including cessation-related HWL responses. Future research should determine ways to catalyze interpersonal communication about HWLs and thereby potentiate HWL effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-149
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Publication statusPublished - Sept 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Communication
  • Health warning labels
  • Mexico
  • Policy
  • Smoking cessation
  • Tobacco

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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