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New Research: E-Cigarette Content on Instagram Violates Policies, Is Marketed to Teens

  • May 04, 2024

New York — New research presented today at the American Psychiatric Association’s Annual Meeting indicates that methods of advertising e-cigarettes on digital platforms are violating federal government and Instagram policies. The primary violations include omitting age-restricted content tags on Instagram and neglecting to address the addictive potential of e-cigarettes and other vaping products. Previous studies have found that exposure to e-cigarettes on social media is correlated with increased use.

The term “e-cigarette” refers to vaping products, synthetic nicotine products, and other electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS). In a new study, Jessica Tran and colleagues reviewed ENDS-based content on Instagram for level of engagement among adolescent users, accuracy of the ENDS information presented, and adherence to federal and Instagram regulation policies. The researchers examined ENDS-related Instagram posts in December 2023, using a simulated 14-year-old female’s profile to search hashtags such as #vapelife, #vapecommunity, and #ecig. The team reviewed 51 posts from these hashtags to assess the presence of health-related warnings and common themes.

The majority (34) of the 51 posts portrayed e-cigarette use in a positive light, whereas 12 took a negative tone towards ENDS. The most common marketing strategies used included appeals to aesthetics and lifestyle. Two-thirds of posts did not contain warnings regarding age restriction or the addictive potential of nicotine, in violation of FDA regulations. In a breach of Instagram branded content policies, 23 of the 51 posts were created by vape shops or ambassadors, who serve as sales representatives for vape brands. Only 14 of the 51 posts aimed to educate consumers, with 30 of the posts created for promotional purposes.

“Youth exposure to content about e-cigarettes and other ENDS must be curtailed by effective age restrictions and diligent enforcement of regulatory policies,” said Tran. “Even more importantly, ENDS-related content must evolve to educate consumers about the potential health effects of e-cigarette usage.”

The study authors included Jessica Tran, B.S., Lily Nguyen, B.S., and Joseph Shotwell, M.D., of the University of Texas Medical Branch John Sealy School of Medicine in Galveston, Tex. To learn more about vaping and nicotine, the harms associated with ENDS and resources to quit vaping, visit the APA website.

American Psychiatric Association

The American Psychiatric Association, founded in 1844, is the oldest medical association in the country. The APA is also the largest psychiatric association in the world with more than 38,900 physician members specializing in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and research of mental illnesses. APA’s vision is to ensure access to quality psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. For more information, please visit

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