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The impact of cartoon-based marketing strategies on e-cigarette appeal and use among adolescents

Institution: University of Southern California
Investigator(s): Jon-Patrick Allem,
Award Cycle: 2019 (Cycle 30) Grant #: T30IR0891 Award: $1,225,843
Subject Area: State and Local Tobacco Control Policy Research
Award Type: High Impact Research Project Award

Initial Award Abstract
During our previous research we have observed a strategy used to market e-cigarette-related products that bears striking similarities to those that have been used by tobacco companies in the past. E-cigarette manufacturers and vendors are using cartoons to market their products and many of these companies' logos are cartoons. it is possible that this marketing strategy (e.g., cartoons) is an effective tool for e-cigarettes; however there is currently no data to answer the following essential questions: 1) what is the overall extent of the use of cartoons in marketing by e-cigarette manufacturers and vendors; 2) what is the extent of exposure to this marketing strategy among adolescents; 3) is this marketing strategy effective at altering perceptions of risks and benefits of use, intention to use, and actual use of e-cigarettes among adolescents? The proposed project will address these questions by assessing the impact of the use of cartoons in marketing e-cigarette-related-products on the perceived risks and benefits, intention to use, and actual use of e-cigarettes in adolescents (ages 14 to 17) enrolled in Los Angeles area high schools. We will recruit adolescents (n=1000) to complete surveys assessing self-reported levels of exposure to the above marketing strategy, and perceived risks and benefits of e-cigarette use, intentions to use, and use. Finally, we will recruit adolescents (n=500) to complete an experiment examining the causal impact of this marketing strategy on increases in self-reported product appeal (e.g., intention to use). The overall goal of this project is to inform potential state and local tobacco policy regulations on marketing and promotions. If we find that exposure to cartoon-based marketing strategies are associated with e-cigarette use and intention to use, this would provide strong evidence to develop specific marketing and advertising restrictions similar to those already in place for combustible and chew tobacco products.