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The cigar ambassador: how Snoop Dogg uses Instagram to promote tobacco use
  1. Amanda Richardson1,2,
  2. Ollie Ganz1,
  3. Donna Vallone1,2
  1. 1Department of Research and Evaluation, Legacy, Washington, District of Columbia, USA
  2. 2Department of Health, Behavior and Society, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Amanda Richardson, Department of Research and Evaluation, Legacy, 1724 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20036, USA; arichardson{at}legacyforhealth.org

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Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr, otherwise known as Snoop Dogg, and now Snoop Lion, is an American rapper, record producer, and actor. He has sold over 30 million albums worldwide and is a self-described “savvy adapter of new technology” whose “stronghold over the various social networking platforms makes him more accessible than ever.”1 His influence in cyberspace is evident in his 23+ million likes on Facebook, 10+ million Twitter followers and over 350 000 YouTube subscribers. He has also acquired more than 1.6 million followers on Instagram, a photo-sharing app recently acquired by Facebook,2 where 90 million monthly users upload 40 million photos per day. Beyond promotion of his artistic endeavours, Snoop Dogg is using social media—Instagram, in particular—to promote cigars.

During the three-day Coachella music festival in 2012, where approximately 85 000 people gathered per day,3 Snoop Dogg capitalised on his headline status to unveil a new brand of cigars named Executive Branch.4 ,5 As the “Ambassador” of the product, Snoop is said to have “hand chosen” the tobacco to “ensure the highest quality.”6 Several videos of Snoop Dogg promoting the cigars—which he refers to as the “The Gentleman's Choice”7—are featured on their website (http://executivebranchcigars.com) (figure 1).

Figure 1

Screenshot of Snoop Dogg's promotional video of Executive Branch Cigars featured on the company's web page.

Building off his announcement at Coachella, Snoop uploaded numerous photos to Instagram endorsing Executive Branch cigars (including figures 2 and 3), each garnering at least 10 000 likes, over 200 comments, and most likely additional uploads to social networks featured on Instagram, such as Pinterest, Twitter and tumblr. Several photos also strategically place both Executive Branch cigars next to marijuana, an arguably overt promotion for their use as ‘blunts’, a cigar hollowed out and filled with marijuana. A video on their website—Snoop Dogg “Executive Branch”—is an overt promotion of blunts as well. Outside of any regulatory authority and under the radar of traditional advertising surveillance, Snoop has used social media to generate awareness, discussion and viral spread of his pro-cigar message, and has promised to do so in the future.4

Figure 2

Promotional photo of Executive Branch cigars on Snoop Dogg's Instagram account.

Figure 3

Snoop Dogg publicly endorsing use of Executive Branch cigars.

While the US Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 20098 gave Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the unprecedented authority to regulate tobacco, cigars are notably omitted from this authority. Unlike cigarettes, for example, cigars can still be sold in flavours and in packs less than 20. This lack of regulation could provide an opportunity for the industry to market cigars in the USA more aggressively, and the unveiling of Executive Branch through a popular celebrity spokesman such as Snoop Dogg may be one way in which this is done. Messages sent through an admired celebrity, who an individual has specifically chosen to ‘follow’, may have a notable impact on tobacco-related attitudes, beliefs and behaviour, particularly because of the long-term and engaging nature of social media. Unfortunately, although Snoop Dogg appeals to a wide audience, his messages likely target many individuals at risk for long-term tobacco use and tobacco-related morbidity and mortality, including youth and young adults,9–12 African–Americans,13–17 and those of lower socioeconomic status.13 Snoop Dogg's approach is similar to Brown & Williamson's 2004 ‘Kool Mixx’ campaign, which targeted young African–American men, and exploited the popular hip-hop musical genre to sell cigarettes,18 a practice which ended in lawsuits and a landmark settlement against Brown &Williamson for their targeted marketing practices.19

Given its potential influence on tobacco use behaviour, surveillance of tobacco product promotions by influential celebrities through social media and other venues is critical if we hope to counter pro-tobacco messages and reduce the burden of tobacco use in our society.

References

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Footnotes

  • Contributors AR conceived of the paper and wrote the manuscript. OG retrieved the images and helped with background information on Snoop Dogg. DV provided feedback on the manuscript.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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