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.
Keywords: advertising and promotion; electronic nicotine delivery devices; media; packaging and labelling; social marketing.
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