Introduction: Very little is known about how e-cigarette marketing is being perceived by youth, and the potential effect it will have on youth vaping and smoking behaviors. This limits the ability to identify youth-focused marketing efforts and to design effective policies for the regulation of e-cigarette marketing content and placement.
Methods: A sample of 417 nonsmoking youth (mean age = 15, SD = 1.3) were randomly assigned to either view four e-cigarette ads with low youth appeal, four e-cigarette ads with high youth appeal or four control ads. After exposure, participants completed covert and overt measurements of e-cigarette and tobacco cigarette attitudes and susceptibility to use.
Results: Youth in an e-cigarette ad condition were more likely to select an e-cigarette item in a product choice task compared to control, and had more positive e-cigarette beliefs. Contrary to hypotheses, youth in the low youth appeal condition reported greater susceptibility to trying e-cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes compared to control.
Conclusions: Exposure to any e-cigarette advertising may play a role in teens’ decision to initiate e-cigarette and tobacco cigarette use. As the Food and Drug Administration now has regulatory authority over the marketing of e-cigarettes, regulations on e-cigarette advertising are suggested.
Implications: Teens are increasingly being exposed to e-cigarette advertising, and many places are considering e-cigarette regulations, yet we know very little about how e-cigarette advertisements might influence youth tobacco use. This study utilized a novel dataset of e-cigarette ads coded for youth appeal and presented them to a sample of 417 nonsmoking teens in a randomized controlled design to test the effect of features on youth susceptibility to initiating e-cigarette and tobacco cigarette use. The findings inform evidence-based recommendations for regulating the marketing of e-cigarettes.