How do different types of e-cigarette adverts affect perceptions of harm from tobacco smoking among children?

In two previous studies, we found that children exposed to e-cigarette adverts perceived occasional tobacco smoking as less harmful than children not exposed to such adverts. In this paper, published 17th July 2018, we replicate and extend these findings using a larger sample, a stronger control condition and an updated meta-analysis.

Visual Abstract of Vasiljevic et al., 2018

We allocated 1,449 English school-children aged 11-16 to see either a set of glamorous adverts for e-cigarettes, or adverts for objects unrelated to smoking or vaping. Analyses were conducted on the sub-sample of children who had never smoker tobacco or used an e-cigarette (n = 1,057). We found that children exposed to e-cigarette adverts depicting glamour perceived the harms of smoking one or two tobacco cigarettes occasionally to be lower than did those exposed to unrelated adverts. An updated meta-analysis comprising three studies (including the present study) with 1,935 children confirmed that exposure to different types of e-cigarette adverts [glamorous, healthful, flavoured, or non-flavoured] reduces children’s perceptions of the harm of occasional smoking of one or two tobacco cigarettes.

This study adds to existing evidence that exposing children to adverts for e-cigarettes may reduce how harmful they perceive tobacco smoking to be. Further studies are warranted, using longitudinal and experimental designs, to assess a wider range of possible impacts of the marketing of e-cigarettes including attitudes towards the tobacco industry and tobacco control policies.

E-cigarette Adverts and Children’s Perceptions of Tobacco Smoking Harms: An Experimental Study. Vasiljevic,  St John Wallis, Codling, Couturier, Sutton, Marteau, BMJ Open. Access full text.