• Project Title: “Big Vape's" Two Faces: A Content Analysis of Vape Advertisements and Public Relations to Understand Possible Outlets of Youth Misinformation

  • BASIS Advisor: Erin Vander Wall

  • Internship Location: BASIS Independent McLean

In 2018, the US Surgeon General named teen vaping an epidemic. Nicotine exposure during adolescence can harm the developing brain: it can impact learning, memory, and attention. Despite the anti-vaping campaigns popularized around the US, understanding the mediums through which teens receive information on drugs is important for improving these programs. In 2020, JUUL, a leading e-cigarette company, along with others, was suspended from its license to sell products: the FDA found that the company misled customers to believe that their e-cigarettes contained a lower risk of exposure to substances and subsequent diseases or were entirely free of substances. From these initial observations, I will examine the communication pathways between youth and the largest e-cigarette brands to see if the messages they publish are the same implications customers receive. This research question aims to find out how a company may publicly make broad claims, for instance, on easing addictions, while their advertisements and campaigns seem to increase nicotine addictions among youth. I will use the Stanford Tobacco research database, a curated database of tobacco, cigarette, and e-cigarette advertisements, to identify advertisements. Data will be filtered to follow the most recent campaign of advertisements from each company (these will have accompanying PR). I will conduct a content analysis of advertisements and compare messaging in advertisements with messaging in public statements on the same campaign. I expect to find that while companies state that their mission is to help smokers quit, their advertisements will still draw on appeals to teenagers.