Majority of young people exposed to e-cigarette advertising, finds study

Social media and advertising in and around vape shops and other retailers were the key exposure locations, raising the need for urgent attention to address these forms of exposure, experts say

October 31, 2023 02:40 pm | Updated November 03, 2023 10:37 am IST - CHENNAI

Image for representational purpose only.

Image for representational purpose only. | Photo Credit: ANI

Despite advertising restrictions in place, 85% of young persons, who were surveyed across four countries, reported being exposed to e-cigarette advertising on at least one type of media.

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In a cross-sectional online survey aimed at examining various factors associated with e-cigarette use among young people, The George Institute for Global Health surveyed approximately 1,000 persons aged 15 to 30 each in Australia, China, India and the United Kingdom. It assessed demographic characteristics, e-cigarette and tobacco use, number of friends and family members who vape and exposure to multiple forms of e-cigarette advertising (television, print, radio and social media).

Elaborating the findings in a research paper - Exposure to e-cigarette advertising and young people’s use of e-cigarettes : A four-country study - the researchers said that the average number of types of media to which respondents were exposed was five. The number of media types was significantly associated with ever use of e-cigarettes.

Social media and advertising in and around vape shops and other retailers appeared to be the key exposure locations, raising the need for urgent attention to address these forms of exposure given their apparent association with e-cigarette use, Simone Pettigrew, The George Institute for Global Health, said, according to a press release.

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The World Health Organisation recommends banning all forms of e-cigarette advertising, promotion and sponsorship. In fact, all four countries - Australia, China, India and U.K. - have varying regulatory frameworks relating to the supply and promotion of e-cigarettes. For instance, India has amongst the strictest regulatory environments in the world: nicotine and non-nicotine e-cigarettes are banned and advertising is not permitted.

Aiming to examine young people’s exposure to e-cigarette advertising across a wide range of media in the four countries and to identify any association between the number of different types of media exposures and e-cigarette use, the researchers asked respondents if they have ever heard of e-cigarettes, and those responding in the affirmative were asked for their usage “never used”, “previously used” or “currently use” the products. Their exposure to advertising were assessed across multiple items such as “When you are using the internet, how often do you see advertisements or promotions for e-cigarettes when you are not searching for e-cigarettes?”

Of the total sample of 4,107 respondents, 1,011 reported never having heard of e-cigarettes and were excluded from further analyses. Most of the “never heard” respondents were from China and India, the study said.

Across all four countries, 85% of respondents (2,645) had been exposed to e-cigarette advertising on at least one type of media, ranging from 79% for never users to 95% for current users. In online contexts, exposure was more common for most social media platforms compared to general Internet usage. For example, 50% of those from China and 30% of those from Australia, India, UK reported seeing e-cigarette advertising on Douyin and Instagram respectively, compared to 29% seeing the advertising when using other parts of the Internet, the researchers said.

In real life contexts, exposure was most common for vape shops (48%) and supermarkets/corner stores/petrol stations (42%). There was substantial exposure across a broad range of other media such as television, magazines, billboards and radio.

The George Institute said that after controlling for demographic, social and tobacco use factors identified in previous research as being associated with e-cigarette use status, the number of media types via which the respondents had been exposed to e-cigarette advertising was significantly associated with e-cigarette use. This is consistent with previous research highlighting a link between e-cigarette advertising exposure and susceptibility to the use of such products, the release said.


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