Comparing Message Appeals Employed in Efforts to Prevent E-cigarette Use Among Students in a US University

Nicole McKenzie, Peter Paprzycki, Amanda Joost, Aaron Kruse-Diehr, Tavis Glassman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


College students tend to underestimate the risk associated with e-cigarette use while overestimating the prevalence of this behavior. The purpose of this study was to compare the perceived effectiveness of social norms messages to other theoretical appeals regarding the prevention of e-cigarette use. Researchers surveyed 586 college students who assessed five messages. Different appeals were featured in each message. A Rasch Rating Scale Model (RSM) was used to calibrate students' responses to seven items assessing each communication message. The results from the multiple regression models revealed that vape-users were less receptive to the messages than abstainers, and among vape users, males expressed lower message endorsement than females. Overall, the clinical appeal received the highest endorsement in Rasch calibrated logit unit measures, (M = 3.36 for abstainers and M = 2.41 for vape-users), whereas the social norms message was the least favored (M = 1.41 for abstainers and M = 0.22 for vape-users). Qualitative analyses revealed common themes of skepticism and a need for credible scientific information. Findings suggest college students prefer clinical evidence over normative information. An experimental design is needed to determine the extent to which messages influence behavior change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)458-466
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Community Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • College students
  • E-cigarettes
  • Fear appeals
  • Health communication
  • Social norms
  • Vaping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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