Recent studies have separately examined the content and demographic reach of the advertising of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS). No study to our knowledge has linked the two in investigating whether racial/ethnic groups are differentially exposed to the comparative messages conveyed in online ENDS advertisements.Methods
932 unique ENDS advertisements (6311 total), which were posted on 3435 websites between December, 2009 and October, 2015, were categorized as either comparative or non-comparative with respect to the traditional cigarette. The race/ethnicity of website visitors was obtained from a proprietary source and used in constructing variables for racial/ethnic viewership. The variables for advertising content and website racial/ethnic viewership were then linked yielding a final sample of 551 unique ENDS advertisements (2498 total) on 1206 websites. A two-level hierarchical generalized linear model, used in estimating website racial/ethnic viewership as a predictor of comparative advertising, accounted for the nesting of advertisements (level 1) within 152 ENDS brands (level 2).Results
In contrast to racial/ethnic minorities, a greater proportion of non-Hispanic whites visited websites with ENDS advertisements than the overall proportion of nonHispanic white U.S. Internet users. Yet, it was the advertisements on websites that appealed to Hispanics that had greater odds of comparing ENDS to traditional cigarettes.Conclusions
The lower exposure to ENDS advertising among racial/ethnic minorities versus non-Hispanic whites is consistent with survey data. Yet, the greater odds of comparative advertising of ENDS on websites that appeal to racial/ethnic minorities (ie, Hispanics) could impact the longterm health of minority smokers.Implications
This study’s findings have important implications for the uptake of ENDS among minority smokers. If the comparative advertising yields greater interest and eventual use of ENDS, then minority smokers could either benefit from smoking cessation because they switch to ENDS, or adopt dual tobacco use. The fate of comparative advertising of ENDS versus the traditional cigarette will depend on the Food and Drug Administration enforcement of its deeming rules and the ensuing changes in the ENDS marketplace.