UNC Lineberger’s Noel Brewer, PhD, and Allison Lazard, PhD, led a recent publication in the journal Tobacco Control. The study, “Communicating about chemicals in cigarette smoke: impact on knowledge and misunderstanding,” delved into whether websites with information about harmful chemicals in tobacco products were “understandable and not misleading to a lay person.”

UNC Lineberger’s Noel Brewer, PhD, and Allison Lazard, PhD

In the study, the researchers assigned 1,441 U.S. adults and teenagers to view one of a group of webpages, or none. Participants completed a survey to test their knowledge, misunderstanding, perceived likelihood, severity of health effects from smoking and quit intentions. In the second phase, participants viewed all three webpages.

From the study, researchers found that viewing any web page led to greater knowledge of chemicals and health harms, and to greater intentions to quit, but they also found that a fraction of participants endorsed the misunderstanding that some cigarettes are safer than others. Researchers concluded that while people’s knowledge of chemicals and health effects can increase after viewing a webpage, the webpages may not correct misunderstandings “that some cigarettes are safer.”

Brewer, who is a professor in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health Department of Health Behavior, was the corresponding author of the study. Lazard, who is an assistant professor in the UNC School of Media and Journalism, was the first author.