In a new study published 6th September in Tobacco Control we show that exposing children to advertisements for e-cigarettes may reduce how harmful they think occasional tobacco smoking is for their health.
Children are now more likely to experiment with e-cigarettes than they are with tobacco cigarettes. There is concern that the increasing exposure of children to e-cigarette adverts could be contributing to higher rates of experimentation; in the US, adolescents’ exposure to e-cigarette adverts on TV more than trebled between 2011 to 2013.
We assigned 564 British children to one of three groups: one group was shown adverts depicting e-cigarettes as glamorous; a second group adverts depicting e-cigarettes as healthier alternatives to tobacco cigarettes; and a third, control group, in which the children saw no adverts. The children were then asked a series of questions aimed at determining their attitudes towards smoking and vaping.
Children shown the adverts were no more or less likely than the control group to perceive tobacco smoking as appealing and all three groups understood that smoking more than ten cigarettes a day was harmful. However, both groups of children exposed to the e-cigarette adverts, both healthy and glamorous, were less likely to believe that smoking one or two tobacco cigarettes occasionally was harmful.
These results support the recent changes in EU regulations surrounding the marketing of e-cigarettes, but raise questions about the need for further regulation regarding the content of e-cigarette products that appeal to children. More research is needed to replicate this finding and to examine both the short- and long-term impacts of e-cigarette advertising on children.
What is the impact of e-cigarette adverts on children’s perceptions of tobacco smoking? An experimental study. Petrescu, D, Vasiljevic, M, Pepper, JK, Ribisl, KM, Marteau, TM.