Toward Fine-Grained E-Cigarette Surveillance on Social Media: Evolving Themes, Popularity Predictors, and Demographic Variations

Grants and Contracts Details


Electronic cigarettes (or e-cigs) are currently a popular emerging tobacco product. Because e-cigs do not generate toxic tobacco combustion products produced when smoking regular cigarettes, they are perceived and sometimes promoted as a less harmful alternative to smoking and also as a means to quit smoking. Although they may be less harmful, the efficacy of using e-cigs for smoking cessation has not been demonstrated. Furthermore, owing to their recent introduction, there are also safety concerns. The US Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has introduced regulations that went into effect on 8/8/2016 requiring approval from FDA for e-cig products, banning sales to minors and free samples, and requiring warning labels on certain products. In this context, surveillance of evolving themes and factors contributing to message popularity for e-cigarette chatter on social media platforms is an important task. Twitter has become the favorite network for teens and young adults owing to the short message size and associated ease of use on smart phones. For an emerging product like e-cigs, the asymmetric follower-friend connections and “hashtag” functionality in Twitter are a convenient way to propagate information and facilitate discussion. Among online forums, Reddit allows for longer messages from users inviting specific feedback from other users. In this project, we propose to computationally analyze the contents and user profiles available in the dataset of all e-cig tweets and subreddit messages generated during the 12 month period 7/16 to 6/17. Our first aim is to provide an exhaustive high accuracy overview of distribution of themes in the landscape of e-cig usage, marketing, and regulation as observed on Twitter and Reddit using topic modeling methods. Next, we will identify factors that contribute to popularity of certain ecig messages over others so agencies can employ appropriate strategies to maximize diffusion of their messages. Finally, we will conduct these analyses across the dimensions of gender, age, and ace to grasp variations that are specific to understudied demographic segments.
Effective start/end date8/10/177/31/21


  • National Cancer Institute: $366,053.00


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