While digital marketing of tobacco products is becoming increasingly common, the role of social media platforms in tobacco control is still understudied. There is a growing body of research suggesting that social media promotion of cigar products is rapidly increasing.1-3 With regulation lagging behind innovative digital marketing tactics, social networking sites have become an important promotional vehicle for tobacco brands. Commercial social media messages often target youth and populations traditionally experiencing tobacco-related disparities.4, 5 Thus, disparities in the use of cigar and cigarillo products are persistent in the U.S., with nearly one in ten African American high school students being cigar smokers in 2018.6, 7 Youth, African Americans, and Latinos also use social media at higher rates than the general population, which potentially multiplies the effect of social media marketing and contributes to disparities in tobacco marketing exposure. Understanding the impact of exposure to messages about cigar, little cigar and cigarillo products on social media can offer meaningful insights for tobacco control as social media data provide valuable measures of population norms, targeted marketing, and other previously unmeasured contextual factors associated with health outcomes. Unfortunately, to date, no studies have examined the population level impact of social media marketing of cigar and cigarillo products. This project will advance the scientific knowledge on cigar products by filling this critical research gap. The overarching goal of this project is to examine the direct effects and the unintended consequences of exposure to social media content related to cigars, little cigars, and cigarillos and provide timely scientific basis for regulatory actions on restricting marketing for cigar products, including little cigars and cigarillos (LCCs).
The specific aims of the proposed project are: 1) to examine the impact of exposure to little cigar and cigarillo social media content on LCC use, attitudes towards LCCs, harm perceptions, perceived prevalence of use, initiation, and intentions to use LCCs; 2) to assess the unintended consequences of LCC-related content exposure on social media, examining its impact on attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors related to other combustible products such as cigarettes and hookah; as well as the impact of exposure on marijuana use and initiation; 3) to study whether or to what extent state and local tobacco control policies and marijuana regulations modify the direct effects and unintended impact of potential exposure to social media content.
These aims will be accomplished by applying innovative research and analytic methods to a unique combination of data sets, including social media data from Twitter and Instagram, Nielsen store scanner data on LCC and other tobacco product sales, and survey data on tobacco-related outcomes. The findings from this project will provide highly policy-relevant scientific evidence on the population level impact of social media marketing of LCC products. This project will provide unique insight into the direct effects and unintended influences of digital cigar promotion and build a scientific and methodological base for surveillance and regulation of social media marketing.
Social media are a major marketing platform for reaching youth and vulnerable populations traditionally experiencing tobacco-related disparities with little cigar and cigarillo promotion. The goal of this project is to assess the intended and unintended effects of exposure to commercial and influencer social media content about cigar products on Twitter and Instagram with tobacco and marijuana product use and sales to inform future tobacco use prevention, education, and marketing regulation efforts.