Online Program

Marketing and promotion of electronic cigarettes on twitter

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Jidong Huang, PhD, Institute for Health Research and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL
Rachel Kornfield, Institute for Health Research and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL
Glen Szczypka, MA, Health Media Collaboratory, Institute for Health Research and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago, School of Public Health, Chicago, IL
Sherry Emery, PhD, MBA, Institute for Health Research and Policy - Health Media Collaboratory, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL
Background: Despite the rapid increase in awareness and use of e-cigarettes in recent years, little is known about how they are marketed and promoted, particularly on social media platforms.

Methods: Keyword rules were used to collect tweets related to e-cigarettes from the Twitter Firehose between May 1, 2012 and June 30, 2012. Tweets were coded for smoking cessation and other health claims and mentions, and were classified into commercial tweets and organic tweets, using a combination of Bayesian machine learning methods, keyword algorithms, and human coding.

Results: A total of 73,672 tweets related to e-cigarettes were captured in the study, 90% of which were found to be commercial tweets. Commercial e-cigarette tweets were posted on twitter feeds nearly 200 million times whereas organic electronic cigarette tweets were posted on twitter feeds only 4 million times. Accounts tweeting commercial e-cigarette content were associated with lower Klout scores. Commercial tweeting was largely driven by a small group of highly active accounts, with the top 10 accounts producing 32% of all electronic cigarette related tweets in the study period. 11% of commercial tweets and 9% of organic tweets mentioned smoking cessation. The majority (94%) of commercial tweets included links to websites that sell or promote e-cigarettes. Approximately 34% of commercial tweets included price discounts or coupons.

Conclusions: Twitter appears to be a major marketing and promotional platform for e-cigarettes. Tweets related to e-cigarettes were overwhelmingly commercial, and a substantial proportion of e-cigarette tweets contained therapeutic claims, particularly related to smoking cessation.

Learning Areas:

Communication and informatics
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Explain how electronic cigarettes are marketed and promoted on Twitter; Assess the presence, the extent, and the type of electronic cigarettes related tweets on Twitter; Discuss the policy and public health implications of e-cigarette marketing and promotion on Twitter.

Keyword(s): Tobacco Control, Media

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been conducting research on the relationship between new and emerging tobacco products and social media platforms in the past two years, working closely with Dr. Sherry Emery, principal investigator of multiple federally funded grants focusing on media influences on tobacco use.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.