Online Program

Smoking Selfies: Using Instagram to examine smoking behavior

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Glen Szczypka, MA, Health Media Collaboratory, Institute for Health Research and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago, School of Public Health, Chicago, IL
Steven Binns, MPH, Health Media Collaboratory, Institute for Health Research and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, School of Public Health, Chicago, IL
Violeta Carrion, MS, MEd, Health Media Collaboratory, Institute of Health Research and Policty, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL
Rachel Nordgren, MS, Biostatistics, University of Illinois at Chicago, School of Public Health, Chicago, IL
Vinu Ilakkuvan, MSPH, Legacy, Washington, DC
Elizabeth Hair, PhD, Legacy, Washington, DC
Donna Vallone, PhD, MPH, American Legacy Foundation, Washington, DC
Sherry Emery, PhD, MBA, Institute for Health Research and Policy - Health Media Collaboratory, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL
background - Social media has fundamentally changed the way that we receive, create, share and process information.   Increasingly, researchers turn to platforms like Twitter for public health surveillance from flu prediction to disease behavior patterns.  However, our media landscape is constantly evolving and preferences for platforms change.  In 2015,  Instagram, an online photo sharing site, is one of the fastest growing social networks.  According to the Pew Research Center, 53% of young adults (18-29) now use the platform as opposed to 37% for Twitter. 

methods - This first-of-its-kind study will assess the amount and characterize the content of smoking imagery and cigarette brands on Instagram. Data were obtained from Instagram's public API (Application Program Interface) and a private vendor, Ditto Labs, which scans Instagram posts with image recognition software.  Our measures of smoking-related content and tobacco brands were based on user text tags for photos and image recognition software. Over a six-month period from June-December 2014, we used 220 smoking behavior and cigarette brand keywords to collect 4.1 million image posts. 

results - During the study period, tags with "smoke" or "smoking" generated the most photos, at 2,070,851 and 731,910 respectively. Marlboro was the most popular brand, with 100,452 photos, followed by Lucky Strike, with 17,468.  Content of these images was classified as tobacco products, tobacco selfies or smoke clouds.

conclusions - Instagram can be a powerful tool for the surveillance of smoking behavior and social norms among young adults. The popularity of these images may counteract public health efforts to de-normalize smoking.  Further, the sharing of brand images allows tobacco companies covert and unpaid advertising on increasingly popular image-based platforms like Instagram and Tumblr.

Learning Areas:

Communication and informatics
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
List the popular social media platforms used by young adults What is a social data API Explain how social media data can be used to report disease behavior patterns

Keyword(s): Tobacco Control, Social Media

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a senior research specialist in the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I have worked on multiple federally funded grants with a focus on evaluating public health campaigns particularly in tobacco control. Over the last few years, I have used social data from Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and Instagram to inform the analysis and evaluation of public health campaigns.
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.