Safe by comparison: Unintended Consequences of the Effects of Comparison Between Alternative Tobacco Products.

Primary Author: Kamal Ahmmad

Faculty Sponsor: Elizabeth Howlett


Primary College/Unit: Carson College of Business

Category: Business, Communication, and Politial Sciences

Campus: Pullman



Principle topic: Graphic Health Warnings (GHWs) on cigarette packages are used to discourage smoking. However, the use of GHWs on cigarette packages may have unintended negative consequences. We examined how GHWs on cigarette packages can bias consumers’ evaluation of e-cigarettes. Negative emotions such as fear, guilt, and disgust generated by warnings and disclosures on cigarette packages lead to changes in cognitions, judgments, and behaviors (Andrews et al 2014, Netemeyer et al 2016). Similarity and preference judgment literature also posit that consumers’ engage in comparison processes when they asses product similarity (Simonson & Tversky 1992. Hagius & Mason 1993). Since cigarettes and e-cigarettes are two similar product and most smokers switch to e-cigarettes as a means to quit smoking, counter-marketing of cigarettes with GHWs would influence the evaluation of e-cigarettes.

Method: We conducted two online studies and one lab study to examine the mechanism through which GHWs influence e-cigarette-related consumer responses. In addition to testing behavioral intention related to e-cigarettes, we also tested consumers’ information seeking behavior in response to GHWs on cigarette pack.

Results and Implications: Results from three studies show that GHWs on cigarette packages increase cigarette related fear and decrease e-cigarette related fear. The elicited fear influences attitudes and health hazard beliefs related to e-cigarettes. We also find that GHWs on cigarettes increase the information seeking behavior related to e-cigarettes. The results have significant policy implications which show that counter-marketing efforts of one harmful products have unintended negative consequences by increasing the preference for another potentially harmful product.