Immediate Effects of Plain Packaging Health Warnings on Quitting Intention and Potential Mediators: Results From Two Ecological Momentary Assessment Studies

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The purpose of this study is to examine the immediate, everyday impact of health warnings on cigarette packages on potential smoking cessation mediators and to test for differences in immediate reactions to branded and plain tobacco packaging during the transition phase when plain packs where first introduced in Australia. Two Ecological Momentary Assessment studies tested whether smokers report higher risk appraisals, self-efficacy, and quitting intentions immediately after seeing a warning compared to random times of the day (Study 1), and whether smoking from plain packs results in higher quitting intention, risk appraisal, and self-efficacy than smoking from branded packs (Study 2). There was no immediate increase in self-efficacy, risk appraisal, or intention after encountering health warnings, and no differences in cognitions when using plain compared with branded packs. Moreover, cognitions were not different when warnings were encountered in proximity to smoking compared to nonsmoking events. However, self-efficacy and risk appraisal were significantly associated with quitting intention. Current health warnings do not seem to have an immediate impact on important predictors of quitting intention and might benefit from including messages that place a stronger focus on increasing smokers’ confidence that they can quit. Replication of the results with larger sample and cluster sizes is warranted.

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