An Investigation of Influential Users in the Promotion and Marketing of Heated Tobacco Products on Instagram: A Social Network Analysis

February 1, 2022


While an increasing body of the literature has documented the exposure to emerging tobacco products including heated tobacco products (HTPs) on social media, few studies have investigated the various stakeholders involved in the generation of promotional tobacco content. This study constructed a social network of Instagram users who posted IQOS content, a leading HTP brand, between 1 January and 5 April 2021 and identified users who positioned near the center of the network. We identified 4526 unique Instagram users who had created 19,951 IQOS-related posts during the study period. Nearly half of the users (42.1%) were business accounts authorized by Instagram, among which 59.0% belonged to Personal Goods and General Merchandise Stores and 18.1% belonged to Creators and Celebrities. For users with higher in-degree, out-degree, betweenness, and closeness centrality in the network, the majority of them were accounts directly associated with IQOS (e.g., containing “iqos” in username) or related to tobacco business as self-identified in the bio. Our findings further refine the social media marketing presence of tobacco products and suggest that the current self-regulatory efforts led by social media platforms are far from enough

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