Exploring Differences in Youth Perceptions of the Effectiveness of Electronic Cigarette Television Advertisements

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Abstract

Introduction:

Studies suggest that exposure to televised electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) advertising contributes to the recent increase in e-cigarette use among youth. This study examines the relationship between perceptions of e-cigarette advertisements and attitudes toward and intentions to use e-cigarettes among youth who had never used e-cigarettes.

Methods:

In May 2014, we conducted an online survey of 5020 youth aged 13 to 17. Participants were randomly assigned to answer questions about their attitudes toward and intentions to use e-cigarettes before or after viewing e-cigarette advertisements. Perceived effectiveness (PE) of advertisements was measured after ad exposure. Ordinary least squares models were used to assess the relationship between PE and study outcomes.

Results:

Among never e-cigarette users, greater PE was associated with more positive attitudes toward e-cigarettes (b = 0.74, P < .001) and intentions to use e-cigarettes (b = 0.16, P < .001). Findings suggest that PE is predictive of outcomes controlling for study condition, youth demographics, and media use variables.

Conclusions:

After ad exposure, youth who have never used e-cigarettes previously perceive e-cigarettes as cooler, more fun, healthier, and more enjoyable. Youth who thought the ads were more effective were more likely to have a positive attitude toward e-cigarettes and greater intention to try e-cigarettes in the future. Restricting televised e-cigarette advertising may reduce e-cigarette initiation among youth.

Implications:

Previous studies demonstrate that, among adults, PE is antecedent to actual ad effectiveness across a range of behaviors. To our knowledge, this is the first study to document the relationship between PE and advertising effectiveness among youth. It provides evidence that PE may be a useful tool to quantify the potential influence of advertising on youth—advertising that, in this case, is designed to market a consumer good that may be harmful to youth but that may also be used to develop public health campaigns.

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