Effects of a Social Media Intervention on Vaping Intentions: Randomized Dose-Response Experiment

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of medical Internet research






dose-response effects; e-cigarettes; nicotine; randomized controlled trial; social media; tobacco control; vaping


BACKGROUND: e-Cigarette use, especially by young adults, is at unacceptably high levels and represents a public health risk factor. Digital media are increasingly being used to deliver antivaping campaigns, but little is known about their effectiveness or the dose-response effects of content delivery. OBJECTIVE: The objectives of this study were to evaluate (1) the effectiveness of a 60-day antivaping social media intervention in changing vaping use intentions and beliefs related to the stimulus content and (2) the dose-response effects of varying levels of exposure to the intervention on vaping outcomes, including anti-industry beliefs, vaping intentions, and other attitudes and beliefs related to vaping. METHODS: Participants were adults aged 18 to 24 years in the United States. They were recruited into the study through Facebook (Meta Platforms) and Instagram (Meta Platforms), completed a baseline survey, and then randomized to 1 of the 5 conditions: 0 (control), 4, 8, 16, and 32 exposures over a 15-day period between each survey wave. Follow-up data were collected 30 and 60 days after randomization. We conducted stratified analyses of the full sample and in subsamples defined by the baseline vaping status (never, former, and current). Stimulus was delivered through Facebook and Instagram in four 15-second social media videos focused on anti-industry beliefs about vaping. The main outcome measures reported in this study were self-reported exposure to social media intervention content, attitudes and beliefs about vaping, and vaping intentions. We estimated a series of multivariate linear regressions in Stata 17 (StataCorp). To capture the dose-response effect, we assigned each study arm a numerical value corresponding to the number of advertisements (exposures) delivered to participants in each arm and used this number as our focal independent variable. In each model, the predictor was the treatment arm to which each participant was assigned. RESULTS: The baseline sample consisted of 1491 participants, and the final analysis sample consisted of 57.28% (854/1491) of the participants retained at the 60-day follow-up. We compared the retained participants with those lost to follow-up and found no statistically significant differences across demographic variables. We found a significant effect of the social media treatment on vaping intentions (β=-0.138, 95% CI -0.266 to -0.010; P=.04) and anti-industry beliefs (β=-0.122, 95% CI 0.008-0.237; P=.04) targeted by the intervention content among current vapers but not among the full sample or other strata. We found no significant effects of self-reported exposure to the stimulus. CONCLUSIONS: Social media interventions are a promising approach to preventing vaping among young adults. More research is needed on how to optimize the dosage of such interventions and the extent to which long-term exposure may affect vaping use over time. TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT04867668; https://clinicaltrials.gov/study/NCT04867668.


Prevention and Community Health