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Impact of E-cigarette Prevention Messages on Adolescents

Principal Investigator: Seth M. Noar

Funding Mechanism: National Institutes of Health – Grant

ID number: 1R01DA049155-01A1

Award Date: 07/09/2020

Institution: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


Additional research to inform effective communications related to e-cigarette prevention among adolescents would be useful. The goal of this project is to identify e-cigarette prevention messages that will reduce adolescents’ (ages 13-17) willingness to use e-cigarettes. Study aims are: (1) to identify promising ways to communicate with adolescents to prevent e-cigarette use; (2) to develop a set of e-cigarette prevention messages that discourage adolescents from wanting to use e-cigarettes; and (3) to evaluate whether prevention messages reduce at-risk adolescents’ willingness to use e-cigarettes and e-cigarette use behavior in a randomized controlled trial (RCT). To achieve Aim 1, researchers will: identify promising prevention message themes (e.g., health effects, social norms, addiction) targeted to adolescents based on the empirical literature; vet these themes with the study team, expert consultants, and a teen advisory panel; work with an advertising agency to develop creative concepts for the most prominent themes; and conduct six focus groups with about 60 adolescents to examine their responses to the creative concepts. To achieve Aim 2, researchers will: develop 10 e-cigarette prevention messages based on the chosen concepts from Aim 1; conduct 30 cognitive interviews with 10 tobacco-using, 10 tobacco-susceptible, and 10 non-susceptible non-user adolescents to refine the messages; and conduct an online study of 1,600 adolescents to examine the perceived effectiveness of the messages in discouraging e-cigarette use. To achieve Aim 3, researchers will select a set of the most promising messages from Aim 2 to test in an RCT with 506 adolescents who will receive daily text messages for 20 days; one group will receive one of the five e-cigarette prevention messages in a randomized order, while the other group will receive a control message such as “This study will help others in the future. Thanks for taking part!”. Researchers will examine the impact of messages on willingness to use e-cigarettes (primary outcome) and e-cigarette use, cognitive elaboration, negative affect, e-cigarette beliefs, and social interactions (secondary outcomes) with a brief daily assessment, 3 weekly surveys, and a survey at 3 months. Study findings may inform e-cigarette prevention messages and campaigns for adolescents. 

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