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A cross-sectional examination of marketing of electronic cigarettes on Twitter
  1. Jidong Huang,
  2. Rachel Kornfield,
  3. Glen Szczypka,
  4. Sherry L Emery
  1. Institute for Health Research and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jidong Huang, Institute for Health Research and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago, 1747 West Roosevelt Rd, Chicago, IL 60608, USA; jhuang12{at}


Background Rapid increases in marketing of e-cigarettes coincide with growth in e-cigarette use in recent years; however, little is known about how e-cigarettes are marketed on social media platforms.

Methods Keywords were used to collect tweets related to e-cigarettes from the Twitter Firehose between 1 May 2012 and 30 June 2012. Tweets were coded for smoking cessation mentions, as well as health and safety mentions, and were classified as commercial or non-commercial (‘organic’) tweets using a combination of Naïve Bayes machine learning methods, keyword algorithms and human coding. Metadata associated with each tweet were used to examine the characteristics of accounts tweeting about e-cigarettes.

Results 73 672 tweets related to e-cigarettes were captured in the study period, 90% of which were classified as commercial tweets. Accounts tweeting commercial e-cigarette content were associated with lower Klout scores, a measure of influence. Commercial tweeting was largely driven by a small group of highly active accounts, and 94% of commercial tweets included links to websites, many of which sell or promote e-cigarettes. Approximately 10% of commercial and organic tweets mentioned smoking cessation, and 34% of commercial tweets included mentions of prices or discounts for e-cigarettes.

Conclusions Twitter appears to be an important marketing platform for e-cigarettes. Tweets related to e-cigarettes were overwhelmingly commercial, and a substantial proportion mentioned smoking cessation. E-cigarette marketing on Twitter may have public health implications. Continued surveillance of e-cigarette marketing on social media platforms is needed.

  • Electronic nicotine delivery devices
  • Media
  • Social marketing

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