Social Media Message Designs to Educate Adolescents About E-Cigarettes

J Adolesc Health. 2021 Jan;68(1):130-137. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2020.05.030. Epub 2020 Jul 9.


Purpose: E-cigarette use is increasing among adolescents, despite potential harms. Social media messages are a promising way to educate youth about e-cigarettes, yet little is known about what message topics and formats will have beneficial impacts for message reception, reach, e-cigarette knowledge, and beliefs about harms.

Methods: A national convenience sample of adolescents (n = 928, aged 15-18 years) in high school was recruited for an online experiment. In October 2019, participants were randomized to view one of three social media formats (visual based, quiz, and text only) or a no-message control. Participants in format conditions viewed six unique topics in a random order. Outcomes were e-cigarette knowledge and beliefs. Message reactions and sharing preferences were also assessed among youth who saw social media messages.

Results: Social media messages led to greater knowledge (Cohen's f = .19; p < .001) and beliefs (f = .16; p < .001) about harms of e-cigarettes compared with the control, regardless of format. Almost four in five adolescents (79%) reported they would share the social media messages, most likely in person (49%) and with friends (52%). Message topics for missing out because of lung damage, having uncontrolled moods, and ingesting specific harmful chemicals elicited higher intended message reactions.

Conclusions: Social media messages can educate about e-cigarette harms. Social media campaigns are a promising e-cigarette education strategy to reach youth, directly and potentially through peer-to-peer sharing.

Keywords: Nicotine; Quizzes; Risk beliefs; Social interactions; Tobacco prevention.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems*
  • Humans
  • Social Media*
  • Text Messaging*
  • Tobacco Products*
  • Vaping*