University of Arkansas, Fayetteville


In US v. Philip Morris USA Inc. (2006), six major tobacco companies were ordered to provide funding for an extremely large corrective advertising and marketing campaign. The Court ruled that consumers may have been misled and deceived about the (1) health effects of smoking, (2) addictiveness of smoking, (3) lack of health benefit from low tar/light cigarettes, (4) companies’ manipulation of nicotine delivery and cigarette design, and (5) health effects of secondhand smoke. Using print advertising copy test procedures, this research focused on the potential effectiveness of test ads submitted to the Court in impacting these target beliefs. In an initial pilot study, reliable multi-item measures for each of these belief themes were developed and assessed. These multi-item belief measures were then employed in the subsequent main study, in which the effects of two versions of a print advertisement (submitted to the Court in this litigation) were tested using a mixed experimental design. As hypothesized, results show that corrective ads can have a positive effect on the belief themes (compared to a control group not exposed to such ads), but there is an interaction demonstrating that some belief themes are more strongly affected by the test ads than are others. Results suggested that the beliefs about light/low tar cigarettes may be substantially affected by such a campaign. The addition to the ad copy of graphic visuals, such as those currently used on cigarette packages in Canada and Australia, had mixed results overall. Contributions of the research include the development of reliable multi-item measures for critical smoking-related beliefs, as well as implications of the copy test findings for this specific case and corrective advertising, tobacco counter advertising, and public policy, in general.