Developing a theoretical marketing framework to analyse JUUL and compatible e-cigarette product promotion on Instagram

Tob Control. 2023 Aug;32(e2):e192-e197. doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2021-057120. Epub 2022 Feb 21.


Background: E-cigarette promotion on social media coincided with the rapid growth of e-cigarette use among American youth, particularly with the increased JUUL pod vaporiser use. We examined commercial JUUL-related messages on Instagram to identify marketing appeals used to target users along the continuum of e-cigarette use; we mapped the appeals to existing theoretical marketing frameworks to better understand industry strategies.

Methods: Hashtag-based keyword rules were used to collect JUUL-related posts from the Instagram application programming interface, 1 March-13 November 2018. Posts were classified as commercial or non-commercial. A combination of machine learning methods, keyword algorithms and human coding were used to characterise message themes in commercial posts.

Results: Keyword filters captured 50 817 relevant posts and 41% were commercial. Among commercial posts, 91% contained recruitment/trial-based appeals (eg, combustible tobacco cessation; product sampling; giveaways) and 71% featured reinforcement/addiction-related appeals (eg, loyalty programmes). None of the commercial messages contained e-cigarette cessation-related appeals and less than 25% mentioned quitting combustible tobacco as a recruitment appeal.

Conclusions: Instagram posts featuring e-cigarette related marketing can increase exposure to persuasive messages encouraging e-cigarette trial and use particularly among susceptible youth. Stronger regulations are needed to prevent exposure to social media marketing among young social media users.

Keywords: advertising and promotion; media; tobacco industry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems*
  • Humans
  • Marketing
  • Social Media*
  • Tobacco Products*
  • Vaping*