Social media is a popular platform in Indonesia to promote tobacco products. There is a rising number of social media users in the country, with 170 million current users, and almost half or 43% is composed of young people below 24 years old.
This study monitored selected influencers on Instagram who were promoting e-cigarettes. Posts monitored were promoting e-cigarettes, through photos or videos with different types of content such as challenges, tutorials, lifestyle, and giveaways. Of the feed posts monitored from 10 randomly selected accounts, 65% of contents featured beauty or sensual images, half (50%) highlighted or displayed the product, 32% showed enjoyment in the product flavors, and 13% peddled a false sense of safety.
The researchers also monitored e-commerce sales of electronic cigarettes on Tokopedia. The team noted a surge in sales as an indirect result of online promotion.
The tobacco industry has taken advantage of the lack of regulation in Indonesia to push these products on social media platforms. In 2018, the prevalence of e-cigarette use in adolescents aged 10-18 years has surged to 10.9% from 1.2% in 2016. Proper monitoring and effective regulation are needed to protect from these harmful and addictive products.