247646 Fantasy fulfillment: Electronic cigarette website advertising

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Rachel A. Grana, PhD, MPH , Center for Tobacco Control Research & Education, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Pamela Ling, MD, MPH , Division of General Internal Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Introduction: Electronic cigarettes (or e-cigarettes) occupy a novel place in the nicotine/tobacco use market as they face unique legal challenges and are primarily sold over the Internet. However, little is known about these products and no published studies investigate their marketing. This study examines the main marketing messages and strategies to sell e-cigarettes and compares them to smokeless tobacco advertising. Methods: Content analysis of fifteen popular websites (found among first retrievals in repeated Google searches of the terms electronic cigarette, e-cigarette, and e-cig). We also included the electronic cigarette companies facing legal challenge or regulatory warnings from the FDA in the sample. Results: We found four main messages communicated through Web-based e-cigarette advertising: 1) they are a safer alternative to continuing to smoke tobacco cigarettes, 2) they are the new and modern way to smoke, 3) they can be used to quit smoking tobacco cigarettes, and 4) they can be used to circumvent clean indoor air laws. The sites often include unique Web-based marketing tools, such as instructional how-to videos and “testimonial” flash-based videos (embedded or linked from their sites to YouTube). Discussion: Marketing messages used to sell e-cigarettes overlap with new smokeless tobacco product advertising themes (e.g., for use “when you can't smoke"). The aggressive marketing of e-cigarettes, their potential appeal to current smokers wanting to quit, and the use of claims that are not supported by scientific evidence warrants public health surveillance and action.

Learning Areas:
Public health or related education
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe the characteristics of an electronic cigarette. 2. Identify four marketing strategies and/or messages used to advertise electronic cigarettes. 3. Describe the similarities and differences in the marketing strategies and messages used to advertise electronic cigarettes and smokeless tobacco.

Keywords: Tobacco Industry, Marketing

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to present this research because I am a postdoctoral fellow in the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education under the mentorship of Dr. Pamela Ling, an expert in tobacco-related marketing.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.