‘Sweeter Than a Swisher’: amount and themes of little cigar and cigarillo content on Twitter

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Abstract

Objective

Despite recent increases in little cigar and cigarillo (LCC) use—particularly among urban youth, African-Americans and Latinos—research on targeted strategies for marketing these products is sparse. Little is known about the amount or content of LCC messages users see or share on social media, a popular communication medium among youth and communities of colour.

Methods

Keyword rules were used to collect tweets related to LCCs from the Twitter Firehose posted in October 2014 and March–April 2015. Tweets were coded for promotional content, brand references, co-use with marijuana and subculture references (eg, rap/hip-hop, celebrity endorsements) and were classified as commercial and ‘organic’/non-commercial using a combination of machine learning methods, keyword algorithms and human coding. Metadata associated with each tweet were used to categorise users as influencers (1000 and more followers) and regular users (under 1000 followers).

Results

Keyword filters captured over 4 372 293 LCC tweets. Analyses revealed that 17% of account users posting about LCCs were influencers and 1% of accounts were overtly commercial. Influencers were more likely to mention LCC brands and post promotional messages. Approximately 83% of LCC tweets contained references to marijuana and 29% of tweets were memes. Tweets also contained references to rap/hip-hop lyrics and urban subculture.

Conclusions

Twitter is a major information-sharing and marketing platform for LCCs. Co-use of tobacco and marijuana is common and normalised on Twitter. The presence and broad reach of LCC messages on social media warrants urgent need for surveillance and serious attention from public health professionals and policymakers. Future tobacco use prevention initiatives should be adapted to ensure that they are inclusive of LCC use.

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