Development and testing of relative risk-based health messages for electronic cigarette products

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Background: Health messages on e-cigarette packs emphasise nicotine addiction or harms using similar wording to warnings on cigarette packs. These may not be appropriate for e-cigarettes which constitute a reduced risk alternative for smokers. This research aimed to (1) develop and test a selection of relative risk messages for e-cigarette products; (2) compare these to the two current EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) nicotine addiction messages; and (3) explore differences between smokers, non-smokers and dual users. Method: Twenty-six messages focusing on either harm-reduction or cessation were developed and rated by multidisciplinary experts for accuracy, persuasiveness and clarity. The eight highest ranking messages were compared alongside the TPD messages in a sample of 983 European residents (316 smokers, 327 non-smokers, 340 dual users) on understandability, believability and convincingness. Results: On all three constructs combined, the two TPD messages rated the highest, closely followed by four relative risk messages “Completely switching to e-cigarettes lowers your risk of smoking related diseases”, “Use of this product is much less harmful than smoking”, “Completely switching to e-cigarettes is a healthier alternative to smoking”, and “This product presents substantially lower risks to health than cigarettes” which did not differ statistically from the TPD messages. Non-smokers rated TPD1 significantly higher overall than dual users. Dual users rated “This product is a safer alternative to smoking” significantly higher than non-smokers. Messages did not differ on understandability. Conclusions: These alternative messages provide a useful resource for future research and for policy makers considering updating e-cigarette product labelling.




Kimber, C., Cox, S., Frings, D., Albery, I. P., & Dawkins, L. (2021). Development and testing of relative risk-based health messages for electronic cigarette products. Harm Reduction Journal, 18(1).

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