This study examined Philadelphia Puerto Ricans' interpretations of the Surgeon General's warnings that appear on cigarette packaging and in advertisements. In-home family focus groups in which participants were asked to comment on magazine cigarette advertisements showed a great variety of interpretations of the legally mandated warning labels. These findings (a) corroborate and add to research in public health and communications regarding the possibility of wide variations in message interpretations and (b) support the call for public health messages to be carefully tested for effectiveness among different social groups. The article's focus on Puerto Ricans addresses the problem of misleading conclusions that can arise from aggregating all Latino subpopulations into one group. The use of a naturalistic setting to examine interpretations of messages about smoking departs from the experimental methods typically used for such research and provides new evidence that even a seemingly straightforward message can be interpreted in multiple ways. Understanding and addressing differences in message interpretation can guide public health campaigns aimed at reducing health disparities.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health(social science)
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Library and Information Sciences