News coverage of novel tobacco products including e-cigarettes has framed the use of these products with both positive and negative slants. Conflicting information may shape public knowledge, perceptions of e-cigarettes, and their harms. The objective of this study is to assess effects of exposure to conflicting news coverage on US adults' beliefs about harms and benefits of e-cigarette use. We conducted a one-way between-subjects randomized controlled experiment in 2016 to compare the effects of viewing either 1) positive, 2) negative, 3) both positive and negative (conflicting) news headlines about the safety of using e-cigarettes, or 4) no-message. Participants were 2056 adults aged 18 and older from an online survey panel. Outcomes were beliefs about harms (3-item scale, α = 0.76) and benefits (3-item scale, α = 0.82) of using e-cigarettes. Participants who viewed negative headlines reported increased beliefs about harms (B = 0.164, p = 0.039) and lower beliefs about benefits of e-cigarette use (B = − 0.216, p = 0.009), compared with those in the positive headlines condition. These differences were replicated in subgroup analyses among never e-cigarette users. In addition, never e-cigarette users who viewed conflicting headlines reported lower beliefs about benefits of e-cigarette use (B = − 0.221, p = 0.030) than the positive headlines condition. Valence of news coverage about e-cigarettes (positive, negative, or conflicting) could influence people's beliefs about harms and benefits of e-cigarette use.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This project was funded by the World-Leading University Fostering Program at Seoul National University , the Institute of Communication Research at Seoul National University, and Grant #2016016761 from the National Research Foundation of Korea, awarded to C.J. Lee as principal investigator. R.H. Nagler acknowledges support from the Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women's Health Grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development, the Office of Research on Women's Health, and the National Institute on Aging, administered by the University of Minnesota Deborah E. Powell Center for Women's Health [grant number 2 K12-HD055887]. The contents of this article are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the study sponsors. The funders have no role in study design; in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; and in the decision to submit the article for publication.
© 2017 Elsevier Inc.
- Conflicting information
- Electronic cigarette
- News coverage