E-cigarette advertising exposure among South African adults in 2017 : findings from a nationally representative cross-sectional survey

09 Feb 2022

OBJECTIVES : In South Africa, the Control of Tobacco and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill seeks to regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products, including their advertising, promotion and sponsorship. Population data on e-cigarette advertising in South Africa are needed to inform public health programs, practice and policy. We examined self-reported e-cigarette advertising exposure during 2017. DESIGN Cross-sectional. SETTING : Household-based survey. PARTICIPANTS : 3063 individuals who participated in the 2017 South African Social Attitudes survey, a nationally representative, in-person survey of the non-institutionalised civilian adult population aged ≥16 years EXPOSURE ‘In the past 12 months, have you seen advertisements or promotions for e-cigarettes (including e-shisha, e-pipe) on any of the following media: newspapers/ magazines, billboards, in the malls or any other source?’ MAIN OUTCOMES : Beliefs and attitudes regarding e-cigarettes. FINDINGS : Participants’ mean age was 37.7 years. Overall, 20.1% reported exposure to e-cigarette advertisements. By age, exposure was most prevalent among those aged 16–19 years (24.6%). Top sources of exposure among those exposed were stores, 40.7%; malls, 30.9%; and television, 32.5%. Of those aware of e-cigarettes, 61.2% believed ‘e-cigarette advertisements and promotion may make adolescents think of smoking traditional cigarettes’; 62.7% believed that ‘e-cigarette advertisements and promotions may make ex-smokers think of starting smoking cigarettes again’; and 59.5% supported the statement that ‘e-cigarette smoking should be banned indoors just as traditional cigarette smoking’. Notably, teens aged 16–19 reported the lowest prevalence (49.0%) of those believing that ‘e-cigarette advertisements and promotion may make adolescents think of smoking traditional cigarettes’, whereas this percentage was highest among those aged 55–64 years (73.2%). CONCLUSION : Comprehensive regulatory efforts are needed to address e-cigarette advertising, marketing and sponsorship in order to protect public health. The urgent enactment of the new tobacco control legislation, The Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill, can help reduce youth exposure to e-cigarette advertising in South Africa.