Colorado State Marketing Professors Find High-Sensation Seeking Teens Have Favorable Brand Impressions of Flavored Cigarettes

As the debate continues to swirl around the recent U.S. ban of flavored cigarettes, Colorado State University Marketing Professors Kathleen Kelly and Ken Manning are releasing results of their study concerning the effects of cigarette package flavor descriptors and adolescents’ brand perceptions.

Among high-sensation seeking youth, the appeal of cigarette brands is enhanced through the inclusion of flavor names on product packaging, according to Kelly and Manning’s new study.

“The potential appeal of flavored cigarettes among youth has not been well understood. With our study, we aimed to learn more about when and why youth may be attracted to such products,” said Kelly.

Kelly and Manning, along with Ohio State University doctoral student Maria Comello, examined high school students’ reactions to three different cigarette brands’ packages. The cigarette packages shown to youth had either traditional phrases like “regular full-bodied taste” or the sweet flavor descriptor “cherry.” Among high-sensation seeking youth, who are predisposed toward stimuli that offer a novel and potentially higher sensory experience, the cigarette brands were significantly more appealing if they included the sweet flavor descriptor.

Manning and Kelly theorize that the use of flavor descriptions on cigarette packages heightens the arousal potential of the marketing communications used in promoting such products, and in doing, becomes especially desirable to high-sensation seeking adolescents. Numerous sweet flavors such as lime, cherry, strawberry, honey mango and apple have been used by tobacco firms to describe and market their cigarettes to consumers.

“Our research should also raise concerns about the widespread use of sweet flavor descriptors with other dangerous products including cigars, bidis, cloves, smokeless tobacco, vodka, wine coolers and malt beverages,” said Manning.

The ban on flavored cigarettes has halted sales in the United States but it has not affected production internationally. However, there is an effort to create a larger international policy regarding flavored tobacco.

The study will be published in Tobacco Control, an international peer reviewed journal for health professionals. The paper also can be viewed online at

The study was supported through a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.