Consumers’ perceptions of disease-specific modified-risk claims are best evaluated in a disease-specific manner
Manufacturers seeking to make claims about modified-risk tobacco products (MRTPs) must assess consumers' perceptions of risk reduction for these products. Claims made for the MRTP and assessment of perceived risk reduction can be global (e.g. "reduced harm" and assessment of a broad spectrum of risks) or disease-specific (e.g. "reduces oral cancer" and assessment of oral cancer risk). We assess whether consumers respond to disease-specific modified-risk claims in a disease-specific manner. U.S. adult current, former and never tobacco users (n = 9,830) recruited from online research panels viewed advertisements stating that smokers who switch completely to Camel Snus (CS) could reduce their risk of lung cancer; a random half of respondents also viewed a claim for reduction of oral cancer risk. Respondents then rated the risk for lung cancer and oral cancer on a 1-7 scale, separately, for CS and cigarettes; the difference in the respective tobacco product types indicated perceived risk reduction. Advertisements also included four government-mandated smokeless tobacco warnings, randomly rotated. We compared those who viewed a warning about mouth cancer with those who viewed a warning about addiction. Findings indicated that the presence or absence of an oral cancer claim had no effect on perceived risk reduction for lung cancer (both groups, -1.8±0.02). With regard to warnings, respondents who viewed the mouth cancer warning reported no risk reduction for oral cancer (0.0±0.03), whereas those who viewed the addiction warning perceived lower risk for oral cancer (-0.4±0.03), especially if they viewed the reduced-oral-cancer claim (-0.6±0.04). These findings indicate that consumers respond to disease-specific warnings and risk-reduction claims in disease-specific ways, and suggest the value of evaluating risk perceptions in a disease-specific manner.