Clean, Cheap, Convenient: Promotion of Electronic Cigarettes on YouTube
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University of Louisville, United States
Clara G. Sears   

University of Louisville, 310 Strickler Hall, 40204 Louisville, United States
Publication date: 2017-04-07
Submission date: 2016-11-29
Final revision date: 2017-02-15
Acceptance date: 2017-03-08
Tob. Prev. Cessation 2017;3(April):10
Videos promoting electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) can be easily accessed on YouTube. Marketing claims present in YouTube videos may help shape the public’s opinion of e-cigarettes. Thus, it is important to understand the most frequent marketing claims and video sources.

The objectives of this study were to 1) identify marketing claims in YouTube videos that are commonly made on e-cigarette retail websites and 2) compare the frequency of marketing claims in user-generated and professional YouTube videos. Through content analysis, this study evaluated six marketing claims and descriptive information about YouTube videos (n = 50) related to “electronic cigarettes” and “vape”.

Overall, the most frequent marketing claim promoted e-cigarette use as better than traditional tobacco use (52%). Approximately 65% of videos appeared to be user-generated and 35% were professionally-produced. Compared to user-generated videos, significantly more professional videos made claims that e-cigarettes are cleaner (p < 0.001) and cheaper (p = 0.04) than traditional cigarettes. Additionally, more professional videos had claims promoting e-cigarettes as better than traditional cigarettes because of their convenience—the user can smoke anywhere (p < 0.0001) and the products do not produce secondhand smoke (p < 0.001). The most frequent claim in user-generated videos was related to recreation (53%).

Videos on YouTube promote e-cigarettes as safer than other tobacco products. Videos appearing to be user-generated contained different marketing claims compared to professional videos. Further research is necessary to assess how the perceived source of the video impacts the ways these marketing claims shape public perception and influence use.

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