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.E-cigarette brands and social media influencers on Instagram: a social network analysis
Date:2022-02-17 15:58 

 

  1. Correspondence to Dr Julia Vassey, Population and Public Health Sciences, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90032, USA; vassey@usc.edu
 

Abstract

Background Exposure to visual posts featuring e-cigarette products on social media is associated with increased e-cigarette use among US adolescents. Instagram is the largest source of e-cigarette social media marketing, where influencers—for example, bloggers, brand ambassadors—post promotional materials. This study analysed the network of e-cigarette brands and influencers on Instagram, characterising the most central players in e-cigarette social media marketing.

Methods We tracked influencers with public profiles on Instagram who posted promotional e-cigarette content in 2020, had over 1000 followers and high user engagement rate (ratio of likes and comments to followers) of 1%–25% per post. By conducting a social network analysis, we identified the most central (highly involved in promotional activities) influencers and e-cigarette brands. The number of the influencers’ followers aged 13–17 years old and the age verification practices restricting youth access were also assessed.

Results There is a highly interconnected network of engaging e-cigarette influencers (n=55) worldwide who collaborated with over 600 e-cigarette brands in 2020. The Asian and US influencers had five to six times more teenage followers compared with the European influencers. 75% of the influencers did not restrict youth access to their promotional content on Instagram. The brands Voopotech, Innokin, Geekvape, Lost Vape, Smok and Vaporesso collaborated with the largest number of influencers (mean n=20).

Conclusions It is important to understand associations among influencers and e-cigarette use behaviours, especially youth, to inform effective public health communication and potential policies that could regulate social media marketing sponsored by e-cigarette companies.