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Am J Prev Med. 2014 Aug;47(2 Suppl 1):S69-75. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2014.05.005.

Self-reported exposure to tobacco warning labels among U.S. middle and high school students.

Author information

  • 1Office of Science, Center for Tobacco Products, Food and Drug Administration, Rockville. Electronic address: sarah.johnson@fda.hhs.gov.
  • 2Office of Extramural Research, NIH, Bethesda, Maryland.
  • 3Office of Science, Center for Tobacco Products, Food and Drug Administration, Rockville.



Warning labels on tobacco products are a means to communicate information about the negative health effects of tobacco use to current and potential users. Most tobacco use begins in early adolescence, making it particularly important to understand the degree to which warning labels reach adolescents.


To examine the extent to which youth report (1) seeing the current warnings on cigarettes and smokeless tobacco (SLT) products in the U.S. and (2) that seeing warnings makes them think about the health risks associated with tobacco use.


Exposure to warning labels on cigarettes and SLT, as well as the degree to which adolescents report thinking about health risks in response to warnings, was examined among U.S. middle and high school students using data from the 2012 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS) and analyzed in 2013.


Current data suggest that less than half of adolescents who saw a cigarette pack (46.9%) or SLT product (40.3%) reported seeing the warning label "most of the time" or "always." Among adolescents who reported seeing a warning, less than one third reported that cigarette (30.4%) or SLT (25.2%) warning labels made them think about health risks "a lot." These rates were even lower among current tobacco users (<14%).


Current warning labels for cigarettes and SLT could be improved by implementing warnings that incorporate features that make them salient and more likely to evoke thoughts about health risks.

Published by Elsevier Inc.

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