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Refilling Addiction: Investigating Marketing for E-liquid on Instagram

Principal Investigator:  Linnea Laestadius

Funding Mechanism: National Institutes of Health - Grant

ID number:  1R03CA216528-01

Award Date:  4/14/2017

Institution: University of Wisconsin Milwaukee 

E-cigarette use has been steadily increasing in the U.S. over the past decade, particularly among adolescents and young adults. The liquids used in refillable e-cigarette devices (e-liquids) often contain nicotine and are sold in a range of appealing flavors and colors. At present, there is little understanding of how e-liquids are marketed on social media or which social media marketing elements are most appealing and persuasive to young adults. Instagram, a social media platform in which each post contains an image or short video, is used by over half of all U.S. adolescents and young adults who use the Internet; exploratory research suggests that Instagram is home to a large volume of e-liquid posts. The goal of this study is to investigate e-liquid marketing on Instagram. Study aims are: (1) to document the ways in which e-liquid manufacturers and retailers market their products on Instagram, and (2) to discern how young adults interpret and respond to e-liquid marketing on Instagram. Investigators will perform a content analysis of 2,000 Instagram posts with the hashtags #eliquid and/or #ejuice to identify marketing themes and claims, promotional strategies, and products promoted. They will analyze health, harm reduction, and cessation claims, as well as products and marketing strategies known to appeal to youth. Investigators will draw posts from four time periods in 2017 and 2018 in order to capture changes in content over time. Additionally, they will track the total number of posts with each hashtag to determine trends in the volume of e-liquid activity. In addition to the content analysis, investigators will hold 12 focus groups with a total of approximately 72 18-24 year olds in Milwaukee, WI who use Instagram. Focus groups will identify participant interpretations and responses to actual Instagram marketing posts.


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