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Return of cartoon to market e-cigarette-related products
  1. Jon-Patrick Allem,
  2. Tess Boley Cruz,
  3. Jennifer B Unger,
  4. Ruth Toruno,
  5. Josseline Herrera,
  6. Matthew G Kirkpatrick
  1. Preventive Medicine, Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jon-Patrick Allem, Preventive Medicine, Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles CA 90032, USA; allem{at}


Introduction The tobacco industry’s use of cartoons to market products has been shown to be effective at increasing awareness and appeal of combustible cigarettes among youth. While the Master Settlement Agreement placed restrictions on the use of cartoons for major cigarette and smokeless (chew) tobacco brands in the USA, no such restrictions exist for electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes). Research has shown that e-cigarette manufacturers are using cartoons to market products, but limited data exist on the extent of these practices. This study examined the extent of the use of cartoons to market e-liquids on Instagram.

Methods Instagram posts with the hashtag #ejuice or #eliquid were collected from 3 November 2017 to 17 November 2017. Rules were established to identify Cartoon (the post contained a cartoon), Logo (the post was labelled a cartoon due to the logo) and Promo (the image of the post or accompanying text indicated it was a promotion) in the data (n=3481).

Results Among all posts, 723 (20.77%) contained a Cartoon, and 479 (13.76%) were coded as a cartoon because of the Logo. In other words, 479/723 or (66.25%) of Cartoon were coded as cartoons due to the vendor’s or manufacture’s logo. Among all posts, 2360 (67.80%) were Promo.

Conclusion Findings indicate that e-cigarette companies are using cartoons to market their products and many of these companies’ logos are cartoons. Empirical data are needed to determine whether cartoon marketing strategies impact perceived risk and benefits, product appeal, the intention to use and actual use of e-cigarettes.

  • advertising and promotion
  • electronic nicotine delivery devices
  • media
  • packaging and labelling
  • social marketing

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  • Contributors J-PA and MGK conceived of, and received funding for, the study. RT and JH coded the images. J-PA and MGK analysed the data and drafted the initial manuscript. TBC and JBU revised the manuscript for important intellectual content. All authors approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding Research reported in this publication was supported by grant # P50CA180905 from the National Cancer Institute and the FDA Center for Tobacco Products.

  • Disclaimer The NIH or FDA 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 NIH or FDA.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Ethics approval The University of Southern California Institutional Review Board approved all study procedures.

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

  • Data sharing statement Data can be requested from the corresponding author.