Article Text

Effects of advertisements on smokers’ interest in trying e-cigarettes: the roles of product comparison and visual cues
  1. Jessica K Pepper1,2,
  2. Sherry L Emery3,
  3. Kurt M Ribisl1,2,
  4. Brian G Southwell1,4,5,
  5. Noel T Brewer1,2
  1. 1Department of Health Behavior, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  2. 2Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  3. 3Institute for Health Research and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA
  4. 4School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  5. 5RTI International, Durham, North Carolina, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jessica K Pepper, Department of Health Behavior, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina, 319D Rosenau Hall, CB 7440, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599-7440, USA; pepper{at}unc.edu

Abstract

Introduction Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are battery-powered nicotine delivery devices that have become popular among smokers. We conducted an experiment to understand adult smokers’ responses to e-cigarette advertisements and investigate the impact of ads’ arguments and imagery.

Methods A US national sample of smokers who had never tried e-cigarettes (n=3253) participated in a between-subjects experiment. Smokers viewed an online advertisement promoting e-cigarettes using one of three comparison types (emphasising similarity to regular cigarettes, differences or neither) with one of three images, for nine conditions total. Smokers then indicated their interest in trying e-cigarettes.

Results Ads that emphasised differences between e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes elicited more interest than ads without comparisons (p<0.01), primarily due to claims about e-cigarettes’ lower cost, greater healthfulness and utility for smoking cessation. However, ads that emphasised the similarities of the products did not differ from ads without comparisons. Ads showing a person using an e-cigarette created more interest than ads showing a person without an e-cigarette (p<0.01).

Conclusions Interest in trying e-cigarettes was highest after viewing ads with messages about differences between regular and electronic cigarettes and ads showing product use. If e-cigarettes prove to be harmful or ineffective cessation devices, regulators might restrict images of e-cigarette use in advertising, and public health messages should not emphasise differences between regular and electronic cigarettes. To inform additional regulations, future research should seek to identify what advertising messages and features appeal to youth.

  • Electronic nicotine delivery devices
  • Non-cigarette tobacco products
  • Advertising and Promotion

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 3.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

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