Home > The role of e-cigarette packaging as a health communications tool: a focus group study with adolescents and adults in England and Scotland.

Jones, Daniel and Morgan, Amber and Moodie, Crawford and Alexandrou, Georgia and Ford, Allison and Mitchell, Danielle (2024) The role of e-cigarette packaging as a health communications tool: a focus group study with adolescents and adults in England and Scotland. Nicotine & Tobacco Research, Early online, https://doi.org/10.1093/ntr/ntae107.

External website: https://academic.oup.com/ntr/advance-article/doi/1...

INTRODUCTION In the United Kingdom, e-cigarette and refill packaging must display a nicotine addiction warning. This study explored how this message is perceived, responses to alternative on-pack messages, and other options for using e-cigarette packaging to discourage youth and people who neither smoke nor use e-cigarettes while encouraging smokers to switch.

AIMS AND METHODS Between August and September 2022, 16 focus groups (n = 70) were conducted to explore these topics with adolescents (n = 31, aged 11-17 years) and adults (n = 39, nonsmokers, smokers that use e-cigarettes, smokers that do not use e-cigarettes) in England and Scotland.

RESULTS While several participants thought the current nicotine addiction warning could help increase awareness of nicotine addiction, most reported that it failed to capture attention and was not a deterrent. Alternative messages shown on packs (about harm, toxicity, wellness, litter, or relative risk) received mixed responses. Relative risk messages were perceived as most beneficial for smokers switching but also thought to potentially encourage uptake among nonsmokers. Some participants considered certain harm and toxicity messages to potentially dissuade uptake. Participants proposed several ideas to reduce the appeal of e-cigarette packaging and devices to deter youth uptake, including more prominent warnings, standardized packaging, and devices that are plain or include health messages.

CONCLUSIONS Packaging can play a crucial role in communicating product and health messages to different consumer groups. Further consideration of how packaging and labeling can meet the needs of non-nicotine users while simultaneously reaching those who may benefit from using e-cigarettes to stop smoking is warranted.

IMPLICATIONS While some viewed the nicotine addiction warning required on e-cigarettes and refill packaging in the United Kingdom as helpful in raising awareness of nicotine addiction, it did not resonate with most of our sample of adolescents and adults. The findings suggest that e-cigarette packaging could be better used to encourage smokers to switch to a less harmful alternative, with relative risk messages showing promise. Furthermore, strengthening on-pack messaging (eg increasing salience and rotating messages) and reducing the appeal of packaging (eg drab colors) and devices (eg including warnings) may help increase awareness of e-cigarette harms while deterring use among adolescents and nonsmokers.

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