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dc.contributor.authorMcCausland, Kahlia
dc.contributor.authorMaycock, Bruce
dc.contributor.authorLeaver, Tama
dc.contributor.authorWolf, Katharina
dc.contributor.authorFreeman, Becky
dc.contributor.authorJancey, Jonine
dc.identifier.citationMcCausland, K. and Maycock, B. and Leaver, T. and Wolf, K. and Freeman, B. and Jancey, J. 2020. E-Cigarette Advocates on Twitter: Content Analysis of Vaping-Related Tweets. JMIR Public Health and Surveillance. 6 (4): Article No. e17543.

Background: As the majority of Twitter content is publicly available, the platform has become a rich data source for public health surveillance, providing insights into emergent phenomena, such as vaping. Although there is a growing body of literature that has examined the content of vaping-related tweets, less is known about the people who generate and disseminate these messages and the role of e-cigarette advocates in the promotion of these devices.

Objective: This study aimed to identify key conversation trends and patterns over time, and discern the core voices, message frames, and sentiment surrounding e-cigarette discussions on Twitter.

Methods: A random sample of data were collected from Australian Twitter users who referenced at least one of 15 identified e-cigarette related keywords during 2012, 2014, 2016, or 2018. Data collection was facilitated by TrISMA (Tracking Infrastructure for Social Media Analysis) and analyzed by content analysis.

Results: A sample of 4432 vaping-related tweets posted and retweeted by Australian users was analyzed. Positive sentiment (3754/4432, 84.70%) dominated the discourse surrounding e-cigarettes, and vape retailers and manufacturers (1161/4432, 26.20%), the general public (1079/4432, 24.35%), and e-cigarette advocates (1038/4432, 23.42%) were the most prominent posters. Several tactics were used by e-cigarette advocates to communicate their beliefs, including attempts to frame e-cigarettes as safer than traditional cigarettes, imply that federal government agencies lack sufficient competence or evidence for the policies they endorse about vaping, and denounce as propaganda “gateway” claims of youth progressing from e-cigarettes to combustible tobacco. Some of the most common themes presented in tweets were advertising or promoting e-cigarette products (2040/4432, 46.03%), promoting e-cigarette use or intent to use (970/4432, 21.89%), and discussing the potential of e-cigarettes to be used as a smoking cessation aid or tobacco alternative (716/4432, 16.16%), as well as the perceived health and safety benefits and consequences of e-cigarette use (681/4432, 15.37%).

Conclusions: Australian Twitter content does not reflect the country’s current regulatory approach to e-cigarettes. Rather, the conversation on Twitter generally encourages e-cigarette use, promotes vaping as a socially acceptable practice, discredits scientific evidence of health risks, and rallies around the idea that e-cigarettes should largely be outside the bounds of health policy. The one-sided nature of the discussion is concerning, as is the lack of disclosure and transparency, especially among vaping enthusiasts who dominate the majority of e-cigarette discussions on Twitter, where it is unclear if comments are endorsed, sanctioned, or even supported by the industry.

dc.publisherJMIR Publications
dc.titleE-Cigarette Advocates on Twitter: Content Analysis of Vaping-Related Tweets
dc.typeJournal Article
dcterms.source.titleJMIR Public Health and Surveillance

©Kahlia McCausland, Bruce Maycock, Tama Leaver, Katharina Wolf, Becky Freeman, Jonine Jancey. First published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research

curtin.departmentSchool of Media, Creative Arts and Social Inquiry
curtin.accessStatusOpen access
curtin.facultyFaculty of Humanities
curtin.contributor.orcidLeaver, Tama [0000-0002-4065-4725]
curtin.contributor.orcidMcCausland, Kahlia [0000-0001-7071-6491]
curtin.contributor.orcidWolf, Katharina [0000-0002-6740-4478]
curtin.contributor.orcidJancey, Jonine [0000-0002-7894-2896]
curtin.contributor.researcheridLeaver, Tama [K-2697-2014]
curtin.contributor.scopusauthoridLeaver, Tama [39963062500]

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