Adolescents are more likely to say they will try electronic cigarettes if they perceive TV ads for these products as effective, according to a new study by RTI International researchers.
The study was published recently on the website of the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research. It involved an online survey of more than 5,000 youth between the ages of 13 and 17.
The teens, who had never used e-cigarettes before, were randomly assigned to answer questions about e-cigarettes before and after viewing e-cigarette ads. The ads used in the study had all aired on U.S. television shows that teenagers watch.
Those who rated the ads as effective said they were more likely to try e-cigarettes in the future.
The study is significant for researchers' understanding of both public health and advertising itself, said Jennifer Duke, Ph.D., senior research public health analyst and co-author of the study. It is the first study to document the relationship between perceived effectiveness and advertising effectiveness among youth, as opposed to adults.
"The results are also notable because the ads used in the study have aired on U.S. television shows viewed by teens," Duke said. "It provides evidence that perceived effectiveness may be a useful tool to quantify the potential influence of advertising on youth—advertising that, in this case, is designed to market a consumer good that may be harmful to youth."
The link between perceived and actual effectiveness could be valuable for public health campaigns aimed at youth, Duke said. Health officials could test their ads' perceived effectiveness to get an idea of how likely they are to influence young people's behavior.
The newly published research expands RTI's knowledge of e-cigarettes and the health and policy questions surrounding their use. It was based on the same sample from a previous RTI study that found a direct link between adolescents' exposure to e-cigarette TV ads and their likelihood of future e-cigarette use.