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Tob Control. 2018 Aug 30. pii: tobaccocontrol-2018-054549. doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2018-054549. [Epub ahead of print]

Mobile website characteristics of leading tobacco product brands: cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, e-cigarettes, hookah and cigars.

Author information

1
Office of Science, Food and Drug Administration Center for Tobacco Products, Silver Spring, Maryland, USA.
2
Office of Health Communication and Education, Food and Drug Administration Center for Tobacco Products, Silver Spring, Maryland, USA.

Abstract

SIGNIFICANCE:

Most US adults use smartphones for internet access. Understanding what they see when they view smartphone-optimised (mobile) tobacco websites is important, as it can inform tobacco education and cessation strategies. This study describes mobile tobacco websites for leading brands of cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco (smokeless), e-cigarettes and hookah.

METHODS:

We identified 130 leading tobacco brands based on sales, advertising spending and self-report data. Of these, 62 brands had mobile websites. We conducted an inductive content analysis (ie, where we derived the coding scheme from what we observed) of website characteristics by dual-coding: age requirements, warning display, brand engagement methods (eg, social features) and sales strategies (eg, coupons).

RESULTS:

All cigarette and most smokeless websites required age-verified accounts for entry, while 76% of e-cigarette websites required accounts only for making purchases. All cigarette and smokeless websites showed warnings, but a minority of e-cigarette and cigar websites did, and no hookah websites did. Many websites required users to scroll up to view warnings. Most e-cigarette websites, most hookah websites, and half of cigar websites linked to multiple social media platforms; however, most cigarette and smokeless websites facilitated socialisation internally. All cigarette, most smokeless and no hookah websites offered coupons. Many cigarette and smokeless coupons were time-sensitive and location-based.

CONCLUSIONS:

We highlight issues in how tobacco brand websites address youth access, display warnings, engage consumers and facilitate purchase. Results can help public health educators and practitioners better understand tobacco marketing as a context for designing tobacco interventions.

KEYWORDS:

advertising and promotion; electronic nicotine delivery devices; non-cigarette tobacco products; tobacco industry

Conflict of interest statement

Competing interests: None declared.

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