The efficacy of health warnings and package branding on perceptions of cannabis products among youth and young adults.
Canada requires mandatory health warnings and restrictions on advertising and promotion as part of nonmedical cannabis legalization. Similar regulations have proven effective in shaping product perceptions and consumer behaviour in other domains, but little empirical evidence exists about the efficacy of labeling and marketing restrictions in a regulated cannabis market. This study examined perceptions of cannabis product packaging designs, health warning labels (HWLs), and perceptions of packs displaying brand imagery and leading descriptors on measures of appeal, and consumer attributes.
An online experimental survey containing 8 between-group experimental tasks was conducted among Canadian cannabis users and non-users (N=870) aged 16 to 30 years. Respondents were shown different packaging designs and asked about the primary outcomes which were ‘appeal’ and perceptions of consumer attributes of cannabis product packaging and HWLs including: greater likelihood of being younger, female, fashionable, health conscious, and likely to go out and party.
When cannabis product branding was present, respondents were more likely (AOR=1.76 95%CI 1.07-2.91 p=0.027) to report greater appeal than when branding was absent. When a HWL was present, respondents were less likely (AOR=0.52 95%CI 0.32-0.86 p=0.010) to report greater appeal than when absent. The presence of a celebrity sponsor (AOR=3.06 95%CI 2.16-4.36 p<0.001), music references (AOR=3.64 95%CI 2.37-5.60 p<0.001), or party references (AOR=12.29 95%CI 8.08-18.69 p<0.001) increased the likelihood that respondents would perceive the product to be targeted at someone younger and one that was likely to go out and party. Differences by cannabis use status were seen across experimental tasks; those that had ever used were more likely to find the presence of branding elements appealing.
Plain/standardized cannabis packs with a HWL were perceived as less appealing than those with branding or without a HWL. The findings also demonstrate the variety of lifestyle associations that can be communicated through brand imagery on cannabis packaging.