Objective To assess the online availability and e-marketing strategies of herbal smoking products (HSPs).
Methodology Google, Yahoo and Bing were searched using relevant keywords related to HSPs. The first 50 records were retrieved and duplicates were removed. Two trained and calibrated authors screened the records according to the eligibility criteria and extracted data from each selected retail-webpage as per the pre-tested data extraction form.
Results Out of the initial 1044 records obtained, 73 retail webpages were finally included. Most of the webpages about HSPs hailed from India followed by the USA. The results showed 24 brands with about 189 flavour variants that are readily available online to all age groups including minors, with price per pack (20 sticks) of herbal cigarettes ranging from INR (₹) 51 to 1830 (median 588). There are no regulations regarding the sale and marketing of HSPs concerning age restrictions and display of health warnings.
Conclusion HSPs are readily available online at affordable prices and attractive variants for customers of all ages. The flavour appeal and the health benefit appeal is being used to target minors and young women. There is an urgent need for some regulations on the sale and e-marketing of such products that have an enormous potential to be used as a gateway to tobacco smoking.
- advertising and promotion
- packaging and labelling
- global health
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Contributors AGu: idea conception and study design, guided data extraction, analysis and interpretation, and reviewing the manuscript. SS: Study design, data extraction, result interpretation and manuscript drafting. PY: study design, data extraction, result interpretation and manuscript drafting. SG: designing the conceptual framework, improvisation of the data extraction, and reviewing the manuscript. AGo: designing conceptual framework, data interpretation, and reviewing the manuscript. KG: data interpretation and reviewing the manuscript.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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