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Cognitive Roadblock Not Gateway: Effects of Visual Vaping Cues on Young Adults' Harm Perceptions

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Objectives: In this study, we experimentally tested 2 hypotheses regarding visual vaping cues in e-cigarette video advertisements on harm perceptions immediately following exposure (T1), and again, 2 weeks later (T2). The cognitive gateway hypothesis predicts that vaping cues will reduce vaping harm perceptions among e-cigarette users at T1, leading to lowered smoking harm perceptions at T2. In contrast, the cognitive roadblock hypothesis predicts that vaping cues will heighten smoking harm perceptions among smokers at T1, leading to increased vaping harm perceptions at T2. Methods: We conducted a 2-wave online experiment with 251 smokers or e-cigarette users recruited from students enrolled at a large midwestern university in 2016. Participants were randomized to view: (1) 5 e-cigarette ads containing vaping cues; (2) 5 e-cigarette ads without vaping cues; or (3) 5 bottled drink ads. Results: Findings support the cognitive roadblock hypothesis but not the gateway hypothesis. For current smokers, mediating effects of smoking harm perceptions at T1 were supported. Conclusions: E-cigarette advertisements with vaping portrayals can increase smokers' vaping harm perceptions indirectly by activating smoking harm perceptions, potentially deterring smokers from switching to a less harmful product.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2018

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  • Tobacco Regulatory Science (Electronic ISSN 2333-9748) is a rigorously peer-reviewed online scientific journal for the dissemination of research relevant to the regulation of tobacco products. The journal content includes a broad array of research domains, including chemistry, biology, behavior, community, and population-level surveillance and epidemiology, as well as knowledge syntheses (eg, meta-analyses or state-of-the-art reviews) and analytic modeling. All articles describe the policy relevance of the research outcomes. Given the global nature of tobacco regulation, particularly as a result of international and national policies, Tobacco Regulatory Science publishes high quality research that is relevant to global regulatory needs and requirements. Tobacco Regulatory Science is published electronically 6 times per year.
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