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Vape, quit, tweet? Electronic cigarettes and smoking cessation on Twitter

Abstract

Objectives

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.

Methods

Tweets from 2014 were searched for mentions of e-cigarettes and smoking cessation. A purposive sample was subjected to mixed-methods analysis.

Results

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.

Conclusions

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.

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Acknowledgements

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.

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Correspondence to Jan van der Tempel MPhil.

Additional information

This article is part of the special issue “Electronic Cigarettes and Public Health”.

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van der Tempel, J., Noormohamed, A., Schwartz, R. et al. Vape, quit, tweet? Electronic cigarettes and smoking cessation on Twitter. Int J Public Health 61, 249–256 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00038-016-0791-2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00038-016-0791-2

Keywords

  • Electronic cigarettes
  • Smoking cessation
  • Social media
  • Twitter