How Health Risks Are Pinpointed (or Not) on Social Media: The Portrayal of Waterpipe Smoking on Pinterest

Health Commun. 2016;31(6):659-67. doi: 10.1080/10410236.2014.987468. Epub 2015 Oct 29.


Waterpipe tobacco is among the most rapidly growing trends in tobacco smoking, the growing use and acceptance of which are taking place at a time when cigarette smoking is regarded in an increasingly negative manner (Martinasek, McDermott, & Martini, 2011). Given the health risks and the misperceptions associated with waterpipe smoking, this study focuses on how waterpipe smoking is portrayed and represented on the social media platform Pinterest. In total, 800 Pinterest pins were content analyzed. The vast majority of the sampled pins were primarily image based. More than half of the pins linked to a website external to Pinterest that often redirected the pinner to a commercial website. Waterpipe-focused pins portrayed waterpipe smoking more in a positive light than in a negative light, and conveyed a sense of pleasure, aesthetic, and relaxation, which tended to trigger more repins, likes, and higher levels of engagement. Overall, the risks of waterpipe smoking were not represented on Pinterest, indicating that the social media portrayal of waterpipe smoking needs improvement and could benefit from a public health perspective.

MeSH terms

  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / psychology*
  • Social Media / statistics & numerical data*