Measuring perceptions related to e-cigarettes: Important principles and next steps to enhance study validity

Laura A. Gibson*, Me Lisa R. Creamer, Alison B. Breland, Aida Luz Giachello, Annette Kaufman, Grace Kong, Terry F. Pechacek, Jessica K. Pepper, Eric K. Soule, Bonnie Halpern-Felsher

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Measuring perceptions associated with e-cigarette use can provide valuable information to help explain why youth and adults initiate and continue to use e-cigarettes. However, given the complexity of e-cigarette devices and their continuing evolution, measures of perceptions of this product have varied greatly. Our goal, as members of the working group on e-cigarette measurement within the Tobacco Centers of Regulatory Science (TCORS) network, is to provide guidance to researchers developing surveys concerning e-cigarette perceptions. We surveyed the 14 TCORS sites and received and reviewed 371 e-cigarette perception items from seven sites. We categorized the items based on types of perceptions asked, and identified measurement approaches that could enhance data validity and approaches that researchers may consider avoiding. The committee provides suggestions in four areas: (1) perceptions of benefits, (2) harm perceptions, (3) addiction perceptions, and (4) perceptions of social norms. Across these 4 areas, the most appropriate way to assess e-cigarette perceptions depends largely on study aims. The type and number of items used to examine e-cigarette perceptions will also vary depending on respondents' e-cigarette experience (i.e., user vs. non-user), level of experience (e.g., experimental vs. established), type of e-cigarette device (e.g., cig-a-like, mod), and age. Continuous formative work is critical to adequately capture perceptions in response to the rapidly changing e-cigarette landscape. Most important, it is imperative to consider the unique perceptual aspects of e-cigarettes, building on the conventional cigarette literature as appropriate, but not relying on existing conventional cigarette perception items without adjustment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)219-225
Number of pages7
JournalAddictive Behaviors
StatePublished - Apr 2018


  • Beliefs
  • E-cigarette
  • Electronic cigarette
  • Measurement
  • Perceptions
  • Vaping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology


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