Vape, quit, tweet? Electronic cigarettes and smoking cessation on Twitter
Individuals seeking information about electronic cigarettes are increasingly turning to social media networks like Twitter. We surveyed dominant Twitter communications about e-cigarettes and smoking cessation, examining message sources, themes, and attitudes.
Tweets from 2014 were searched for mentions of e-cigarettes and smoking cessation. A purposive sample was subjected to mixed-methods analysis.
Twitter communication about e-cigarettes increased fivefold since 2012. In a sample of 300 tweets from high-authority users, attitudes about e-cigarettes as smoking cessation aids were favorable across user types (industry, press, public figures, fake accounts, and personal users), except for public health professionals, who lacked consensus and contributed negligibly to the conversation. The most prevalent message themes were marketing, news, and first-person experiences with e-cigarettes as smoking cessation aids. We identified several industry strategies to reach Twitter users.
Our findings show that Twitter users are overwhelmingly exposed to messages that favor e-cigarettes as smoking cessation aids, even when disregarding commercial activity. This underlines the need for effective public health engagement with social media to provide reliable information about e-cigarettes and smoking cessation online.
KeywordsElectronic cigarettes Smoking cessation Social media Twitter
JT, RS, CN, AN, and LZ designed the study. JT conducted data collection and data analysis, and AN assisted with intercoder reliability testing. JT prepared the manuscript draft with important intellectual input from RS and editorial assistance from CN, AN, and MM. All authors approved the final manuscript. The Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care's Health System Research Fund provided funding for the study.
- Barber S, Adioetomo SM, Ahsan A, Setyonaluri D (2008) Tobacco economics in Indonesia. International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, Paris. http://worldlungfoundation.org/ht/display/ContentDetails/i/6596/pid/6512
- Benevenuto F, Magno G, Rodrigues T, Almeida V (2010) Detecting spammers on Twitter. Proceedings of the Conference on Collaboration, Electronic messaging, Anti-Abuse and Spam (CEAS) 6. doi:10.1.1.297.5340Google Scholar
- Boshmaf Y, Muslukhov I, Beznosov K, Ripeanu M (2011) The socialbot network: when bots socialize for fame and money. New York: Proceedings of the 27th Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC):93–102. doi: 10.1145/2076732.2076746
- Brenner J and Smith A (2013) 72% of online adults are social networking site users. Pew Internet and American Life Project. http://www.pewinternet.org/2013/08/05/72-of-online-adults-are-social-networking-site-users/
- Cheng A and Evans M (2009a) Inside Twitter: an in-depth look at the 5% of most active users. Sysomos. http://sysomos.com/insidetwitter/mostactiveusers/
- Cheng A, Evans M, Singh H (2009b) Inside Twitter: an in-depth look at the Twitter world. Sysomos. http://sysomos.com/insidetwitter/
- De Andrade M, Hastings G, Angus K, Dixon D, Purves R (2013) The marketing of electronic cigarettes in the UK. Cancer Research UK. University of Stirling. http://hdl.handle.net/1893/17889
- Gao H, Hu J, Wilson C, Li Z, Chen Y, Zhao BY (2010) Detecting and characterizing social spam campaigns. New York: Proceedings of the 17th ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security (CCS’10): 681–683. doi: 10.1145/1866307.1866396
- Harris JK, Moreland-Russell S, Choucair B, Mansour R, Staub M, Simmons K (2014) Tweeting for and against public health policy: response to the Chicago Department of Public Health’s electronic cigarette Twitter campaign. J Med Internet Res 16(10). doi: 10.2196/jmir.3622
- Holcomb J, Gottfried J, Mitchell A (2013) News use across social media platforms. Pew Research Center: Journalism and Media. http://www.journalism.org/2013/11/14/news-use-across-social-media-platforms/
- Holton AE, Lewis SC (2011). Journalists, social media, and the use of humor on Twitter. Electron J Commun 21(1, 2). http://www.cios.org/EJCPUBLIC/021/1/021121.html
- Rutten LJF, Blake KD, Agunwamba AA, Grana RA, Wilson PM, Ebbert JO, Okamoto J, Leischow SJ (2015) Use of e-cigarettes among current smokers: associations among reasons for use, quit intentions, and current tobacco use. Nicotine Tob Res 17(10):1228–1234. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntv003 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar