Using Electrophysiological Measures to Assess the Consumer Acceptability of Smokeless Tobacco Products

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Abstract

Introduction:

Adequate evaluation of novel tobacco products must include investigation of consumers’ psychological response to such products. Traditionally, subjective scales of product liking have been used to assess consumer acceptability of tobacco products. However, subjective scales may miss cognitive changes that can only be captured by direct neurophysiological assessment. The present investigation explored the viability of using electroencephalography (EEG), in combination with traditional subjective measures, to assess consumer acceptability of five smokeless tobacco products. Given previous work linking product liking to arousal/attentional (executive function) enhancement, we focused on EEG measures of attention/arousal to objectively characterize cognitive changes associated with tobacco product use.

Methods:

During five separate laboratory visits, smokeless tobacco users used Verve discs, Ariva dissolvables, Skoal snuff, Camel snus, or Nicorette lozenges. The N2 and P3b event-related potential components elicited by an oddball task were used to index attentional changes before/after product usage. Additionally, resting state alpha band EEG activity was analyzed before/after product usage to index cortical arousal.

Results:

Although analyses of the subjective results provided limited inference, analyses of the electrophysiological measures, particularly the alpha suppression measure, revealed robust differences between products. Skoal elicited significantly enhanced alpha suppression compared to all four other products tested. Additionally, alpha suppression was found to correlate positively with subjective measures of satisfaction and psychological reward, but was unrelated to perceived aversion.

Conclusions:

The present results provide evidence that electrophysiological measures can yield important insights into consumer acceptability of novel tobacco products and are a valuable complement to subjective measures.

Implications:

This study is the first to employ a combination of electrophysiological measures and traditional subjective assays in order to assess the consumer acceptability of smokeless tobacco products. The results highlight the importance of adopting a multidimensional/multi-method approach to studying the consumer acceptability of tobacco products.

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