Tobacco and electronic cigarette cues for smoking and vaping: an online experimental study

Anna K.M. Blackwell*, Katie De-Loyde, Laura A. Brocklebank, Olivia M. Maynard, Theresa M. Marteau, Gareth J. Hollands, Paul C. Fletcher, Angela S. Attwood, Richard W. Morris, Marcus R. Munafò

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
102 Downloads (Pure)


Objective: This study examined whether exposure to smoking and vaping cues the urge to smoke or vape. It extends previous studies on first-generation cigalikes (visually similar to cigarettes) and second-generation devices (visually similar to pens) by including third-generation tank system devices (larger bulky units). In an online experiment, participants were randomly assigned to view one of four videos, which included smoking, vaping (cigalike or tank system), or neutral cues. The primary outcome was urge to smoke. Secondary outcomes were urge to vape, desire to smoke and vape, and intention to quit or remain abstinent from smoking.

Results: UK adults varying in smoking (current or former) and vaping (user or non-user) status (n = 1120) completed the study: 184 (16%) failed study attention checks meaning 936 were included in the final analysis. Urges to smoke were similar across cue groups. Urges to vape were higher following exposure to vaping compared to neutral cues. There was no clear evidence of an interaction between cue group and smoking or vaping status. The lack of cueing effects on smoking urges is inconsistent with previous research, raising questions about the ability to assess craving in online settings.

Original languageEnglish
Article number32
Number of pages6
JournalBMC Research Notes
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2020

Structured keywords

  • Tobacco and Alcohol
  • Physical and Mental Health


  • Cigarette
  • Cue reactivity
  • E-cigarette
  • Policy
  • Public health
  • Smoking
  • Vaping


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