Background: JUUL, a high-tech, popular vaping device, was the first major electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) brand to incorporate social media into its marketing strategy. There is growing concern around the increasing use of JUUL and other electronic nicotine delivery devices among youth, and their potential to addict a new generation to nicotine. The current study analysed the amount and characteristics of JUUL-related posts on Instagram, a social media platform used frequently among youth and young adults.
Methods: Hashtag-based keyword queries (n=50) were used to collect JUUL-related posts from the Instagram application programming interface, March 2018-May 2018. Using a combination of machine learning methods, keyword algorithms and human coding, posts were characterised as featuring content related to product promotion, nicotine and addiction, youth culture and lifestyle.
Results: Keyword queries captured 14 838 JUUL-relevant posts by 5201 unique users. Over one-third of posts were promotional (eg, linked to commercial website) and 11% contained nicotine and addiction-related information. Approximately half of posts featured content related to youth (55%) or lifestyle (57%). Youth-related content or lifestyle appeals were also notably present within promotional posts and nicotine and addiction-related posts, respectively. Nicotine and addiction-related posts featured memes, hashtags (eg, #nichead, #juulbuzz) and tag lines (eg, 'more flavor, more buzz').
Conclusions: Findings reveal a proliferation of JUUL-related content on Instagram, which focused on product promotion and nicotine and addiction that included youth culture and lifestyle appeals. Regulatory actions should focus on restricting promotional efforts for e-cigarette products, particularly on social media platforms where young people are a primary audience.
Keywords: addiction; advertising and promotion; electronic nicotine delivery devices; media; public policy.
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