Perceptions of Harm and Addiction of Snus: An Exploratory Study

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Tobacco companies in the United States are prohibited from making reduced harm claims without filing a modified risk tobacco product application with the Food and Drug Administration and obtaining an order to market as such. However, it is possible that product marketing may suggest reduced risk to individuals. This study examines perceptions, in particular those related to harm and addiction, of snus print advertisements using a combination of eye-tracking, survey, and semistructured interviews. Participants were 22 male smokers ages 19–29 (M = 26.64, SD = 2.92). Five snus advertisements were each displayed for 20 s and eye movements were tracked. Participants responded to questions about harm and addiction after each advertisement and interviews were conducted after seeing all advertisements. For each advertisement, descriptive statistics were calculated and regression analyses predicted harm and addiction perceptions from eye tracking areas of interest (e.g., warning label). Qualitative data were analyzed using inductive/deductive thematic analysis. For certain advertisements, areas of interest were significantly associated with harm and/or addiction perceptions. For example, higher total fixation duration on the graphic in the Smokeless for Smokers advertisement was associated with decreased perceptions of addiction (B = −.360, p = .048). Qualitative themes emerged and in many instances corroborated quantitative results. This study indicates that for some advertisements, attention on certain areas (measured through eye tracking) is associated with perceptions among young male smokers. Understanding how smokers perceive and understand products after viewing advertisements may inform regulations regarding claims about product harm and addiction and may guide public health efforts to educate smokers on the risks of emerging products.

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