Abstract: How do Cancer Information Seeking, Cancer Fatalism, Cancer Worry, and Comparative Risk Perception Influence e-Cigarette Use?

◆ Cindy (Yixin) Chen, Sam Houston State University
◆ Sarah French, Sam Houston State University

There has been a dramatic growth in e-cigarette use in the U.S. in recent years. E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that simulate the tobacco-smoking experience by delivering nicotine, flavor, and other chemicals in the form of vapor rather than smoke. As e-cigarettes deliver nicotine without burning tobacco, which produces many harmful chemicals, they seem to be safer and less toxic than conventional cigarettes. In fact, e-cigarette cartridges contain nicotine, the substance responsible for causing addiction to tobacco products, and other potentially harmful components (e.g., irritants, genotoxins, animal carcinogens) have also been reported.
Relying upon the expanded conceptual model of health information seeking behaviors (HISB; Longo, 2005), the risk-as-feelings hypothesis (Loewenstein et al., ‎2001), and findings from extant research, we proposed a model that assumes that cancer information seeking influences e-cigarette use through a series of mediators including cancer fatalism, cancer worry, and comparative risk perception.

The model will be tested by data from the HINTS 5 (Cycle 2), which was conducted from 1/26 through 5/2, 2018. HINTS is a series of national surveys collecting data about the use of cancer-related information by American adults 18 years and older.
Age, gender, ethnicity, health status, education, and income will be included as control variables.
Cancer information seeking was measured by a stem item stating that “Based on the results of your most recent search for information about cancer, how much do you agree or disagree with each of the following statements?” The response items include “it took a lot of effort to get the information you needed.”
E-cigarette use was measured by “Do you now use an e-cigarette every day, some days, or not at all?”
Cancer fatalism was measured by a stem item stating that “How much do you agree or disagree with each of the following statements” followed by three items. Sample items include “It seems like everything causes cancer” and “There’s not much you can do to lower your chances of getting cancer.”
Cancer worry was measured by an item stating that “How worried are you about getting cancer?”
Comparative risk perception was measured by an item stating that “compared to smoking cigarettes, would you say that electronic cigarettes are…” followed by responses ranging from “much less harmful” to “much more harmful.”
We will use structural equation modeling to analyze the data.

Anticipated findings:
Participants who have more negative cancer information seeking experiences are likely to have higher cancer fatalism, lower cancer worry, and lower comparative risk perception, which will in turn predict more e-cigarette use.

This study will advance the development of health communication theories by testing the expanded conceptual model of HISB and the risk-as-feelings hypothesis in the context of e-cigarette use. Findings of this project will reveal possible causal mechanisms as to how information seeking experiences influence e-cigarette use. It will also inform intervention strategies that can promote more positive cancer information seeking experiences, decrease cancer fatalism, improve cancer worry and comparative risk perception of e-cigarette, and reduce e-cigarette use in the American population.