This study explores sponsored tobacco advocacy messages on Facebook and Instagram by: (1) Examining differences in message performance metrics, funding sources, and audience characteristics of anti- and protobacco messages in the United States, and (2) Characterizing audience exposure to anti- and protobacco message themes across different age-groups and by gender.
The analysis sample consisting of 375 tobacco-advocacy related messages on Instagram and/or Facebook in the United States from May 29, 2020 to July 26, 2020 was obtained from the Facebook Ad Library Application Programming Interface. Chi-square tests compared differences in anti- and protobacco messages by potential reach, impressions, approximate spend ($), social media platform type, average duration of delivery, type of funding sources, and audience age and gender exposure. Percentage distribution of message themes and audience exposure by age and gender were also examined.
Antitobacco messages (n = 334, 89.07%) exceeded protobacco messages (n = 41, 10.93%) overall. Antitobacco messages had lower potential reach, received a lower proportion of impressions, and spent a lower proportion of money per message. Protobacco advocacy was funded primarily by the tobacco industry and advocacy groups. A small fraction of antitobacco advocacy messages reached young adults and men. Among protobacco advocacy messages, a majority of messages highlighting tobacco regulations, addiction, citizen advocacy, flavors, and impact on economy reached mostly men.
Results illustrate important gaps in current sponsored antitobacco advocacy efforts, demonstrate the feasibility of monitoring sponsored tobacco advocacy on these platforms, and offer insights for future antitobacco advocacy campaigns.