Examining Visual Attention to Tobacco Marketing Materials Among Young Adult Smokers: Protocol for a Remote Webcam-Based Eye-Tracking Experiment

Julia Chen-Sankey, Maryam Elhabashy, Stefanie Gratale, Jason Geller, Melissa Mercincavage, Andrew A. Strasser, Cristine D. Delnevo, Michelle Jeong, Olivia A. Wackowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Eye tracking provides an objective way to measure attention, which can advance researchers’ and policy makers’ understanding of tobacco marketing influences. The development of remote webcam-based eye-tracking technology, integrated with web-based crowdsourcing studies, may be a cost-effective and time-efficient alternative to laboratory-based eye-tracking methods. However, research is needed to evaluate the utility of remote eye-tracking methods. Objective: This study aimed to detail the process of designing a remote webcam-based eye-tracking experiment and provide data on associations between participant characteristics and the outcomes of experiment completion. Methods: A total of 2023 young adult (aged 18-34 years) cigarette smokers in the United States were recruited to complete a web-based survey that included a 90-second remote eye-tracking experiment that examined attention to e-cigarette marketing materials. Primary outcome measures assessed the completion of the remote eye-tracking experiment—specifically, experiment initiated versus not initiated, experiment completed versus not completed, and usable versus nonusable eye-tracking data generated. Multivariable logistic regressions examined the associations between outcome measures and participants’ sociodemographic backgrounds, tobacco use history, and electronic devices (mobile vs desktop) used during the experiment. Results: Study recruitment began on April 14, 2022, and ended on May 3, 2022. Of the 2023 survey participants, 1887 (93.28%) initiated the experiment, and 777 (38.41%) completed the experiment. Of the 777 participants who completed the experiment, 381 (49%) generated usable data. Results from the full regression models show that non-Hispanic Black participants (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] 0.64, 95% CI 0.45-0.91) were less likely to complete the eye-tracking experiment than non-Hispanic White participants. In addition, female (vs male) participants (AOR 1.46, 95% CI 1.01-2.11), those currently using (vs not using) e-cigarettes (AOR 2.08, 95% CI 1.13-3.82), and those who used mobile (vs desktop) devices (AOR 5.10, 95% CI 3.05-8.52) were more likely to generate usable eye-tracking data. Conclusions: Young adult participants were willing to try remote eye-tracking technology, and nearly half of those who completed the experiment generated usable eye-tracking data (381/777, 49%). Thus, we believe that the use of remote eye-tracking tools, integrated with crowdsourcing recruitment, can be a useful approach for the tobacco regulatory science research community to collect high-quality, large-scale eye-tracking data in a timely fashion and thereby address research questions related to the ever-evolving tobacco marketing landscape. It would be useful to investigate techniques to enhance completion rates and data usability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere43512
JournalJMIR Research Protocols
StatePublished - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine


  • e-cigarette marketing
  • eye tracking
  • mobile phone
  • remote eye tracking
  • young adults


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