Beginning in September of 2012, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandated more prominent health warnings on all cigarette packaging as part of an effort to educate the public about the health risks associated with smoking. Project CLEAR (Cigarette Labels: Effectiveness and Resonance) was a community-based participatory research project in Boston, Lawrence and Worcester, with the goal of studying the impact of the newer graphic health warnings on smokers and non-smokers. This study was funded by the FDA, implemented by the Harvard School of Public Health and the Boston Alliance for Community Health (BACH) was the community partner for Boston.
Project CLEAR studied both youth (18-24) and adult (25+) populations with specific focus on individuals belonging to one or more of the following groups: African Americans, Hispanics, low socioeconomic status individuals, chronic disease patients, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender individuals, and blue collar workers.
Some of the studies specific aims included:
- To study the impact of new FDA-mandated health warnings on smokers and non-smokers from vulnerable population groups.
- To assess which of the nine new Graphic Health Warnings is most effective across different groups.
- To examine if the effects of health warnings last beyond the period of immediate exposure and whether there are differences in longer term effects among different population groups.
- To examine the impact of exposure to the new health warnings on the flow of information within online and off-line social networks.
- To assess the needs of community-based organizations (CBO’s) to support local community efforts on tobacco control after the implementation of health warnings.
A mixed methods research was used to develop an integrated picture of the potential impact of the new graphic health warnings. Data was collected through experiments, focus groups and key informant interviews. Study results were shared with the FDA and the community partners to help local health promotion efforts.