Public communication about tobacco products has been transformed by the digital marketing revolution and the rapid diffusion of emerging social media. As a result, tobacco product information and misinformation is readily accessible through a variety of sources: from mass media sources (e.g., newspapers, TV), to social media (e.g.. Twitter) and user commentary on media, to the final communication vehicle, the cigarette package itself. Such misinformation can mislead the public to underestimate the dangers or overestimate the benefits of various tobacco products, and threatens to undermine FDA's regulatory efforts.
The Penn Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science (TCORS) responds to these challenges with a thematic focus on tobacco-related messaging in a complex public communication environment. Specifically, our Center: (a) characterizes the public communication environment to understand how it affects what people know about tobacco products, what they believe about these products, and their use of these products, and (b) determines the most effective strategies for the FDA to convey information and correct misinformation about tobacco products and use.
This grant has been used to fund a number of projects. Please click on each below to learn more:
- Addressing this problem at a macro level, Project 1 (Information and Misleading Information about Tobacco Products in the "New" and "Old" Public Communication Environment: Measuring its Presence, Estimating its Effects, Recommending Regulatory Responses; Robert Hornik, Ph.D., PI) examines information and misinformation about tobacco products in traditional and emerging media and how exposure to this information alters beliefs, attitudes, intentions, and tobacco use.
- Project 2 (Belief Echoes: Interventions to Correct Misleading Information about Tobacco Products; Joseph Cappella, Ph.D., PI) examines the "staying power" of beliefs about tobacco products and tobacco use that are based on misinformation in electronic social media and evaluates corrective interventions. Both Projects 1 and 2 focus on youth and young adults, whose perceptions and behavior may be most affected by internet-based information.
- Project 3 (Effects of Implicit Messaging by Cigarette Pack Color on Smoking Behaviors; Andrew Strasser, Ph.D., PI) provides a detailed analysis of the effects of a particular form of implicit misinformation on tobacco use behavior - the use of color packaging by the tobacco industry to mislead the public to underestimate product harm.
Two novel cross-cutting research cores serve these projects: the Media Data Acquisition and Content Analvsis (MDACA) Core (Sherry Emery, Ph.D., MBA, PI) which acquires, codes, and manages tobacco product information available in emerging media sources; and, the Tobacco FactCheck Core (Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Ph.D., PI) which develops and deploys novel tools to evaluate this information for false and deceptive claims about tobacco products and disseminate corrective information.
Our Developmental Pilot Program (Caryn Lerman, Ph.D., Robert C. Hornik, Ph.D., and Janet Audrain-McGovern, Ph.D., PIs) enables us to respond to emerging scientific opportunities and support new collaborative research activities. Our Training Program (Janet Audrain-McGovern, Ph.D., Joseph N. Cappella, Ph.D., PIs) is developing the next generation of tobacco control regulatory scientists with a focus on communication research.