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Am J Prev Med. 2010 Mar;38(3 Suppl):S403-13. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2009.11.020.

Consumer and health literacy: The need to better design tobacco-cessation product packaging, labels, and inserts.

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  • 1Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Princeton, New Jersey, USA.


Tobacco-cessation product packaging and instruction materials may not be appropriate for some smokers and may contribute to the underuse and misuse of evidence-based treatments. The dual goals of this project are to analyze literacy levels of Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved and non-approved tobacco-cessation product packaging, directions, and claims, and to identify and categorize claims found on product packaging. The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK) maintains the Quitting and Reducing Tobacco Use Inventory of Products (QuiTIP) database, which catalogs products marketed and sold to consumers to reduce or quit use of tobacco products. It also includes all medications approved by the FDA for tobacco cessation as well as a sample of non-approved products such as homeopathic, herbal, nutritional, or dietary supplements commonly marketed as either cessation aids or alternative tobacco/nicotine products. This paper assesses the reading levels required to understand product packaging, labeling, and instructions using the Simple Measure of Gobbledygook (SMOG) and identifies claims on the product package labels using standard qualitative methods. Key findings show that the average reading levels needed to understand instructions for both FDA-approved and non-approved cessation products are above the reading levels recommended to ensure maximum comprehension. Improving the packaging and directions of evidence-based tobacco-cessation products so that they are preferably at or below a fifth-grade reading level, along with using consumer-based design principles to develop packaging, may help smokers take advantage of and correctly use products that will greatly increase their chances of successful quitting.

2010 American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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