Is perception reality? Associations among “light” cigarettes and number of cigarettes smoked per day

Roberta Freitas-Lemos, Allison N. Tegge, Liqa N. Athamneh, Yu Hua Yeh, William H. Craft, Jeffrey S. Stein, Tracy T. Smith, Irina Stepanov, Vaughan W. Rees, K. Michael Cummings, Richard J. O'Connor, Peter G. Shields, Dorothy K. Hatsukami, Warren K. Bickel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Cigarette filter ventilation and light descriptors are associated with lowered perceptions of risk and smoking more cigarettes per day (CPD). This study examined the relationship between usual cigarette ventilation, perception, and CPD. Methods: A crowdsourced sample (N = 995) of individuals who smoke higher-ventilated (=>20% ventilation) or lower-ventilated (=<10% ventilation) cigarettes identified their usual cigarette as “light” or “full flavor”, and reported their average CPD. Results: We found: 1) no association between ventilation status and perception of light versus full flavor (AUC=0.58), with the inaccurate perception being more prevalent in younger individuals (p = 0.041) and those who smoke L&M (73%, p < 0.001) and Camel (61%, p = 0.006) brands; and 2) perception, but not ventilation of usual cigarette, was significantly associated with CPD (p = 0.006), with individuals who perceived their cigarettes as light reporting an average of 13% more cigarettes per day (2.6 CPD), compared to those who perceived their cigarette as full flavor. Conclusions: Perceptions of light versus full-flavor, but not ventilation status, predicted CPD. These findings may inform anti-smoking health communication strategies and smoking cessation interventions. Implications: Tobacco control policies should eradicate the perception of cigarettes as light or full-flavored. Future research investigating the associations between cigarette filter ventilation and smoking behavior should consider the confounding effects that may lie in an individual's perceptions of their cigarettes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number109709
JournalDrug and alcohol dependence
StatePublished - Mar 1 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute grant (grant number 5P01CA217806 and 5R01CA179246). The content is solely the author's responsibility and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH. All authors have contributed, read, and approved this version of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier B.V.


  • Cigarette descriptors
  • Filter ventilation
  • Full flavor cigarettes
  • Light cigarettes
  • Perceptions

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural


Dive into the research topics of 'Is perception reality? Associations among “light” cigarettes and number of cigarettes smoked per day'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this