Online Program

E-cigarette marketing online: A systematic content analysis of manufacturers and retailers

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Elizabeth Klein, PhD, MPH, Division of Health Behavior & Health Promotion, Ohio State University College of Public Health, Columbus, OH
Micah Berman, JD, College of Public Health & Moritz College of Law, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Natalie Hemmerich, JD, Ohio State University College of Public Health, Columbus, OH
Cristen Carlson, Health Behavior & Health Promotion, Ohio State University College of Public Health, Columbus, OH
SuSandi Htut, Health Behavior & Health Promotion, Ohio State University College of Public Health, Columbus, OH
Michael Slater, PhD, School of Communication, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), or e-cigarettes, currently being heavily marketed online, and this advertising channel is anticipated to continue expanding.   Little is known about the content or characteristics of online ENDS advertising.  ENDS are not currently subject to federal oversight, but an anticipated regulation will provide the FDA with the authority to regulate ENDS advertising.  The objective of this study is to identify key themes about ENDS in online marketing.

Methods: In December 2014, a systematic search protocol was employed with 3 popular search engines on six terms: 1) e-cigarettes, 2) e-cigs, 3) e-juice, 4) e-liquid, 5) e-hookah, and 6) vape pen.  Eligible websites were manufacturers and retailers, and excluded were review sites, blogs, or non-commercial sites. Three pages of content were evaluated for each term. 

Results:   The final web search identified eligible sites (n=115).  Many (66%) of the websites had duplicate entries across the search engines pages/terms evaluated. Preliminary results indicate that age verification is used intermittently.  For manufacturers, common site features included blogs, testimonials, user forms, and professional produced commercials.  For manufacturers and retailers, promotional strategies included coupons, price discounts, bulk discounts.

Conclusions:  These preliminary findings characterize legal and marketing strategies being used to promote ENDS use.  Final results will include an in-depth review of the key advertising themes and a legal review of marketing strategies, with comparisons by manufacturers and retailers.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Differentiate the current marketing practices being employed on ENDS manufacturer and retailer websites. List two common themes being communicated to consumers regarding ENDS.

Keyword(s): Tobacco Control, Policy/Policy Development

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the co-investigator on the project that produced the study results for this abstract. My doctoral training is in behavioral epidemiology, and I am actively engaged in quantitative and qualitative tobacco control research, including studies on electronic cigarettes. One of my primary research interests is the use of policy, environmental, and systems changed strategies to prevent tobacco use and promote tobacco cessation.
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.