On SAGE Insight: #Hookahlife: The Rise of Waterpipe Promotion on Instagram

From Health Education & Behavior

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Evidence suggests that exposure to tobacco use on social media predicts future smoking among young adults. Hookah smoking is becoming increasingly popular worldwide, especially among young adults. The role of social media in the spread of hookah becomes an important research question.

Instagram is particularly popular among the age-groups at risk for hookah smoking. Data from social media can provide pathways for policy changes and public health advocacy. With its emphasis on visual sharing, images are highly valuable on Instagram. The visually appealing nature of hookah designs and usage suggest that social media users may be drawn to share on these platforms in particular.

This study aimed to identify how hookah use is portrayed and promoted on Instagram and (2) how the content varied between commercial and personal Instagram users. Instagram posts cast hookah in an overwhelmingly positive light and may normalize hookah use through associations with nightlife, community, and hookah identity. Policy makers and researchers should explore approaches for reducing the volume of promotional posts and tailoring counter-marketing to the specific themes presented on social media.

Abstract

Introduction. Hookah smoking is becoming increasingly popular worldwide, especially among young adults. The growth of social media has also enabled sharing of opinions, experiences, and marketing related to hookah via user-generated content. Aim. To evaluate the portrayal and promotion of hookah on Instagram and to highlight public health challenges created by this content. Method. A qualitative content analysis was performed on a sample of 301 Instagram posts made with the hashtags #hookah or #shisha in October 2016. Results. Of the 301 coded posts, 279 were relevant to hookah. These posts were most commonly made by hookah lounges/bars (29.2%) and individual users (27.6%). Posters were most commonly from Russia (38.5%), the United States (18.6%), and Germany (10.7%). A total of 63.8% of the posts were promotional in nature; 19.7% of posts contained hashtags that expressed hookah identity or community (e.g., #hookahlife); 35.5% of posts associated nightlife activities with hookah smoking and 33.0% portrayed hookah smoking as a social activity. Only one post (0.4%) mentioned that hookah might have negative health effects. Likes were more common on posts depicting novel rather than traditional hookah designs (p = .027). Conclusions. Images from Instagram may help in understanding health behaviors such as hookah smoking. Our results suggest that domestic and international hookah promotion is common on Instagram. Instagram posts cast hookah in an overwhelmingly positive light and may normalize hookah use through associations with nightlife, community, and hookah identity. Policy makers and researchers should explore approaches for reducing the volume of promotional posts and tailoring counter-marketing to the specific themes presented on social media.

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Article details
#Hookahlife: The Rise of Waterpipe Promotion on Instagram
Ziyad Ben Taleb, Linnea I. Laestadius, Taghrid Asfar, Brian A. Primack and Wasim Mazia
DOI: 10.1177/1090198118779131
First Published June 28, 2018
From Health Education & Behavior

 

 

 

     
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