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Open Access Publications from the University of California

E-cigarette imagery in Netflix scripted television and movies popular among young adults: A content analysis



Research is needed to understand the frequency of e-cigarette impressions in scripted television and movies, especially in scripted content with characters and storylines that may appeal to young adults. This study aimed to determine the extent of e-cigarette-related imagery and dialogue in Netflix content popular with young adults. We also determine the demographics and character qualities of actors shown holding e-cigarettes.


Nielsen ratings data were used to compile a list of the most popular Netflix original films and TV shows among U.S. viewers 18-24 years old between June 1, 2020, and May 31, 2021. We used a sample of 12 films and 113 TV episodes from 12 series. Three coders were trained to analyze a total of 101 h of content for the presence of e-cigarettes, level of use, type of characters holding e-cigarettes, brand visibility, and the presence of vaping-related dialogue. Twenty percent of all episodes/films were double coded to ensure reliability.


Out of 125 titles, 16 (13%) had e-cigarette-related content. Thirteen titles (10%) showed at least one character holding an e-cigarette, and three others mentioned vaping without showing e-cigarettes. The total time of e-cigarettes onscreen amounted to 399 s and the average screen time for e-cigarettes was 31 s. Ninety-nine percent of the time an e-cigarette appeared on screen it was being held by a character.


This study documented recent e-cigarette imagery found on Netflix and demonstrates the need for health communication campaigns to denormalize e-cigarette use, particularly among susceptible populations, such as young adults.

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