Objectives: Previous studies revealed a link between social media use and e-cigarette use among U.S. youth, but less is known about the mechanisms through which they interconnect. This study examined how social media and e-cigarette use are connected through online advertisement exposure and risk perception of e-cigarettes among U.S. youth.
Methods: Youth aged 12-17 from the Public Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) Study Waves 2-4 (2014-2018) were included (N = 6,208). This study integrated the incidental exposure framework and the risk perception framework to guide study conceptualization and variable selection. Generalized structural equation modeling was performed to investigate the sequential mediation relationship between social media and e-cigarette use through online e-cigarette advertisement exposure and risk perception of e-cigarette use.
Results: Youth respondents with more social media use were more likely to be exposed to e-cigarette advertisement at Wave 2 (OR = 1.13, p < 0.001), which led to lower e-cigarette risk perception at Wave 3 (β = -0.07, p < 0.001). Higher e-cigarette risk perception at Wave 3 resulted in lower likelihood of e-cigarette use at Wave 4 (OR = 0.57, p < 0.001). High social media use at Wave 2 was directly associated with high likelihood of e-cigarette use at Wave 4 (OR = 1.11, p < 0.001).
Conclusions: The results indicate that social media use is associated with increased e-cigarette use through online e-cigarette advertisement exposure and subsequently decreased e-cigarette risk perception among U.S. youth. Our findings underscore the importance of regulating online e-cigarette advertisement, with the emphasis of avoiding information that could twist youth's risk perception of e-cigarettes, which may in turn curtail youth e-cigarette use.
Keywords: Advertisement; E-cigarette; Longitudinal study; Risk perception; Sequential mediation; Social media; Youth.
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