Perceptions of Nicotine Reduction Policy in the United States: A Qualitative Study

Katherine C. Henderson, Emily E. Loud, Hue Trong Duong, Reed M. Reynolds, Bo Yang, Charity A. Ntansah, David L. Ashley, James F. Thrasher, Lucy Popova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Introduction: Several countries are considering a reduced nicotine policy that would make cigarettes minimally or nonaddictive. This qualitative study documents reactions to the policy that should be addressed by future communication efforts. Methods: In 2020, we recruited participants in Atlanta, GA and San Francisco, CA (27 people who exclusively smoke, 25 who dual use cigarettes and e-cigarettes, 32 who formerly smoked, and 31 young adults who do not smoke). We held 16 focus groups: 2 focus groups for each smoking status in each city. Participants viewed messages about very low nicotine content cigarettes (VLNCs) and were asked about their reactions to each message and their overall response to the reduced nicotine policy. Results: While responses to the policy were predominantly positive, focus group discussion also revealed concerns, questions, and misunderstandings (referred to here collectively as "perceptions") that may need to be addressed if a reduced nicotine policy is enacted. Participants expressed perceptions related to the policy intent, including that the FDA has ulterior motives, adoption/ implementation, including that nicotine would have to be replaced with other chemicals if removed or that the policy would be unfeasible to implement, and effectiveness, including concern that VLNCs would still be addictive or the policy would backfire. Conclusions: Addressing perceptions about reduced nicotine policy intent, adoption/implementation, and effectiveness could be key in creating public support and political motivation to move forward with such a policy. Countries contemplating adopting such a policy should consider pairing it with communications that address these perceptions. Implications: This study is one of very few to use qualitative methods to explore potentially problematic perceptions about nicotine reduction policy among US adults. Results illuminated new policy-specific concerns, questions, and misunderstandings about the reduced nicotine policy intent, adoption/implementation, and effectiveness. Identifying, studying, and addressing relevant perceptions may play a key role in generating support in countries contemplating such a policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1422-1429
Number of pages8
JournalNicotine and Tobacco Research
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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