Developing a targeted e-cigarette health communication campaign for college students

Addict Behav. 2021 Jun;117:106841. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2021.106841. Epub 2021 Jan 26.


Background: E-cigarette use among college students has increased over the last several years, however, there are few published studies on e-cigarette interventions designed to prevent the initiation and escalation of e-cigarette use and to empower cessation for this population.

Methods: We developed an e-cigarette health communication campaign for a large Midwestern university through collaboration between academic and student service departments. We conducted focus group discussions (7 groups; 4-25 per group; n = 98) to (a) understand the context of e-cigarette use on campus and (b) solicit feedback on sample messaging. We conducted thematic analysis using focus group notes and used findings to design final campaign messages and materials.

Results: Six themes emerged: (a) vaping as a popular social activity, (b) progression to and perceptions of addiction, (c) cessation, (d) health effects and uncertainty, (e) intervention points, and (f) individual agency and message tone. Final campaign messages addressed the most salient points from the focus groups and were designed to increase the perceived susceptibility to and severity of risks of e-cigarette use and to increase perceived efficacy for quitting in accord with the Extended Parallel Processing Model (EPPM). Campaign messages and materials were integrated into wellness programming and disseminated across the university and community.

Conclusions: Our focus group discussions allowed campaign messages and materials to be tailored to college students. Collaborative approaches between academic and wellness programs can leverage scientific expertise and student services infrastructure to enhance programming on college campuses.

Keywords: ENDS; Electronic nicotine delivery systems; University partnerships; Vaping; Young adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems*
  • Health Communication*
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Students
  • Vaping*