Online Program

It's like smoking a piece of gum: Perceptions of menthol cigarettes among Twitter users

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Shyanika Rose, MA PhD, Schroeder Institute for Tobacco Research and Policy Studies, Legacy, Washington, DC
Catherine Jo, MSPH, Department of Health Behavior, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Steven Binns, MPH, Health Media Collaboratory, Institute for Health Research and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, School of Public Health, Chicago, IL
Melissa Buenger, MPH, Institute for Health Research and Policy - Health Media Collaboratory, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL
Kurt Ribisl, PhD, Gillings School of Global Public Health, UNC, Chapel Hill, NC
Sherry Emery, PhD, MBA, Institute for Health Research and Policy - Health Media Collaboratory, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL
Background: Menthol cigarettes are used disproportionately by African-American, female, and adolescent smokers. Twitter also is used disproportionately by these groups, providing a unique window into conversations reflecting social norms, behavioral intentions, and promotions of menthol cigarettes. This study examines characteristics of tweets about menthol cigarettes and perceptions of menthol as expressed by Twitter users.

Methods: This project identified 94,627 menthol-relevant tweets over one-year from February 1, 2012 - January 31, 2013 using supervised machine learning procedures. The data were collected from a database of over 47M tobacco-related messages gathered prospectively from the Twitter Firehose, which returns all public tweets and metadata. A random sample of 7,000 menthol-related tweets was coded by a team of 4 coders for prevalence of thematic content (e.g., taste, health concerns), sentiment toward menthol cigarettes, and likely smoking status among Twitter users.

Results: Over 90% of tweets were non-commercial (‘organic’). Preliminary analyses suggest the majority of tweets (60%) discussed smoking behavior, 30% discussed the taste or sensation of menthol (e.g., ‘like gum’), and 16% referenced African-Americans and menthol cigarettes. Only 11% of tweets mentioned cessation and 7% expressed health concerns. Forty-six percent of tweets expressed positive sentiment, while 40% were negative toward menthol cigarettes. The majority of tweets by likely smokers (57%) expressed positive sentiment while 83% of non-smokers and 71% of former smokers indicated negative views.

Conclusions: Examinations of ‘organic’ public opinions toward menthol cigarettes through social media can help to inform the framing of public communication about menthol cigarettes, particularly in light of potential regulation by FDA, states, and localities.

Learning Areas:

Communication and informatics
Diversity and culture
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Identify key themes in menthol cigarette-related tweets and sentiment related to menthol cigarettes as expressed by Twitter users Identify populations associated with menthol cigarette conversation on Twitter

Keyword(s): Tobacco Control, Social Media

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: My doctoral and postdoctoral research has focused on retailer and public perceptions of policies regulating the point of sale, retailer compliance with policies, and policy impact on tobacco health disparities particularly around the regulation of menthol in tobacco products. I have also conducted studies of analysis of social media data through the Health Media Collaboratory. My scientific interests are around communications of policies that have a potential to reduce tobacco use disparities.
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.