Article Text

E-cigarette brands and social media influencers on Instagram: a social network analysis
  1. Julia Vassey1,
  2. Tom Valente1,
  3. Joshua Barker1,
  4. Cassandra Stanton2,
  5. Dongmei Li3,
  6. Linnea Laestadius4,
  7. Tess Boley Cruz1,
  8. Jennifer B Unger1
  1. 1 Population and Public Health Sciences, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA
  2. 2 Behavioral Health and Health Policy Practice, Westat, Rockville, Maryland, USA
  3. 3 Clinical and Translational Science Institute, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York, USA
  4. 4 Zilber School of Public Health, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Julia Vassey, Population and Public Health Sciences, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90032, USA; vassey{at}usc.edu

Abstract

Background Exposure to visual posts featuring e-cigarette products on social media is associated with increased e-cigarette use among US adolescents. Instagram is the largest source of e-cigarette social media marketing, where influencers—for example, bloggers, brand ambassadors—post promotional materials. This study analysed the network of e-cigarette brands and influencers on Instagram, characterising the most central players in e-cigarette social media marketing.

Methods We tracked influencers with public profiles on Instagram who posted promotional e-cigarette content in 2020, had over 1000 followers and high user engagement rate (ratio of likes and comments to followers) of 1%–25% per post. By conducting a social network analysis, we identified the most central (highly involved in promotional activities) influencers and e-cigarette brands. The number of the influencers’ followers aged 13–17 years old and the age verification practices restricting youth access were also assessed.

Results There is a highly interconnected network of engaging e-cigarette influencers (n=55) worldwide who collaborated with over 600 e-cigarette brands in 2020. The Asian and US influencers had five to six times more teenage followers compared with the European influencers. 75% of the influencers did not restrict youth access to their promotional content on Instagram. The brands Voopotech, Innokin, Geekvape, Lost Vape, Smok and Vaporesso collaborated with the largest number of influencers (mean n=20).

Conclusions It is important to understand associations among influencers and e-cigarette use behaviours, especially youth, to inform effective public health communication and potential policies that could regulate social media marketing sponsored by e-cigarette companies.

  • social marketing
  • tobacco industry
  • public policy
  • advertising and promotion
  • electronic nicotine delivery devices

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. Data supporting the conclusions of this manuscript will be made available by the authors, without undue reservation and in compliance with the IRB protocol, to any qualified researcher.

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.

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Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. Data supporting the conclusions of this manuscript will be made available by the authors, without undue reservation and in compliance with the IRB protocol, to any qualified researcher.

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Footnotes

  • Twitter @LinneaLaestad

  • Contributors JV conceived the paper and wrote the first draft of the manuscript. All coauthors provided feedback on the first draft and substantial writing to the final version of the paper. All coauthors approved the final version. JV acts as a guarantor.

  • Funding Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Cancer Institute and the Food and Drug Administration Centre for Tobacco Products (CTP) (grant # U54 CA180905, U54CA228110), the National Institute of Health (grant # 1R01CA260459-01), the National Centre for Advancing Translational Sciences (grant # UL1TR002001), and the Centre for Coordination of Analytics, Science, Enhancement and Logistics (CASEL) in Tobacco Regulatory Science (grant # U54DA046060-01).

  • Disclaimer The funders had no role in study design; collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; writing the report; and the decision to submit the report for publication. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funders.

  • Competing interests None declared.

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

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.