Electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) brands and vendors use websites to promote pro-tobacco messages that may increase susceptibility to use e-cigarettes among never users or help sustain continued e-cigarette use among current users. E-cigarette website marketing is lightly regulated, and little is known about promotional strategies used on e-cigarette companies’ websites. This study conducted a content analysis of website marketing from leading e-cigarette companies selling products in California.
This study identified 20 e-cigarette vendors and 6 e-cigarette brands that had products available for purchase online in California. Two coders visited 26 websites between 06 February 2022 and 17 April 2022. Websites were coded for marketing themes, promotional and interactive content, availability of flavoured e-cigarette products, presence of health warnings, and reference to tobacco control policies.
Marketing themes related to physical health benefits of e-cigarette use were found on 50.0% of the websites. 57.7% of the websites had sales/discounts/coupons. 65.4% of the websites had fruit-flavoured disposable e-cigarettes, while 73.1% of the websites had fruit-flavoured e-liquids available for purchase. 69.2% of the websites allowed users to sign up for email newsletters, and 88.9% of such websites did not require users to create an age-verified account to receive email newsletters.
Findings from this study can be used to inform statewide regulations of promotional communications found on e-cigarette companies’ websites and encourage enforcement of age-verification procedures. This may help reduce susceptibility to use, or continued use of, e-cigarette products among price-sensitive populations, such as adolescents and young adults.