Cartoon-based e-cigarette marketing: Associations with susceptibility to use and perceived expectations of use

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2019 Aug 1;201:109-114. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2019.04.018. Epub 2019 Jun 8.


Background: Manufacturers of e-cigarette-related products are using cartoons as a marketing strategy, despite restrictions on cartoon marketing for combustible cigarettes. Here, we examined associations between exposure to e-liquid packaging with cartoons (operationally defined as recognition of actual marketing images) and e-cigarette use, susceptibility to use, and expectations of benefits and risks of use.

Methods: U.S. adults completed online surveys assessing e-cigarette use. In Study 1, participants (N = 778; Mean age = 23.5 years; 62% women) completed a questionnaire assessing expectations about benefits and risks of use. Then they were presented with 22 e-liquid package images (with and without cartoons) and were asked to endorse whether they recognized the products. In Study 2, participants (N = 522; Mean age = 30.4; 55% women) were presented with 24 e-liquid images (with and without cartoons) and asked to rate product appeal.

Results: For Study 1, among never users, cartoon recognition was associated with greater likelihood of being susceptible to use e-cigarettes, and with expectations of taste enjoyment and social facilitation. For Study 2, there was no significant difference between cartoon and non-cartoon images on appeal ratings.

Conclusions: Cartoon-based marketing exposure - as measured by recognition of e-liquid package images - was associated with susceptibility to use e-cigarettes, which is consistent with previous research on the use of cartoons to promote combustible cigarettes. These data suggest that restrictions on the use of cartoon-based marketing strategies for e-cigarettes should be similar to those for cigarettes, to reduce susceptibility and perceived benefits among non-users.

Keywords: Cartoons; E-cigarette use; Susceptibility to use; Tobacco marketing; Young adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Advertising / statistics & numerical data*
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems / economics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Male
  • Marketing / statistics & numerical data*
  • Motivation
  • Product Packaging
  • Social Facilitation
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Taste
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / economics*
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Vaping / psychology*
  • Young Adult