Evaluating the actual and perceived effectiveness of E-cigarette prevention advertisements among adolescents

Addict Behav. 2020 Oct;109:106473. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2020.106473. Epub 2020 May 19.


Background: The efficacy of e-cigarette prevention ads among adolescents has seldom been studied. We examined the impact of ads from the The Real Cost vaping prevention media campaign on what adolescents think and believe about vaping. We also sought to test whether perceived message effectiveness (PME) served as a proxy for ad impact.

Methods: Participants were 543 U.S. adolescents ages 13-17. In an online experiment, we randomized participants to either: 1) persuasive e-cigarette prevention video ads from the Food and Drug Administration's The Real Cost campaign that was targeted to adolescents or 2) information-only e-cigarette harms control videos (control condition). Participants in each condition viewed 2 videos in a random order. After ad exposure, the survey assessed PME (message and effects perceptions), risk beliefs about vaping, attitudes toward vaping, and intentions to vape.

Results: The FDA's The Real Cost ads led to higher beliefs about the harms of vaping (p < .001), more negative attitudes toward vaping (p < .001), and lower intentions to vape (p < .05) compared to the control videos. The Real Cost ads also scored higher on both message perceptions (p < .001) and effects perceptions (p < .001) compared to control videos. Effects perceptions were associated with all three outcomes (all ps < 0.001, adjusting for both types of PME and covariates), but message perceptions did not offer additional predictive value.

Conclusions: Exposure to The Real Cost vaping prevention ads gave adolescents a more negative view of vaping and lowered their intentions to vape compared to control videos. Effects perceptions may be superior to message perceptions as a proxy for e-cigarette prevention ad impact.

Keywords: Campaign; E-cigarette; Message effects; Perceived message effectiveness; The real cost; Vaping.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Advertising*
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems*
  • Humans
  • Intention
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration
  • Vaping*