Article Text

Vaping on TikTok: a systematic thematic analysis
  1. Tianze Sun1,2,3,
  2. Carmen C.W. Lim1,2,3,
  3. Jack Chung1,2,
  4. Brandon Cheng1,2,
  5. Lily Davidson2,
  6. Calvert Tisdale2,
  7. Janni Leung1,2,4,
  8. Coral E Gartner3,
  9. Jason Connor1,5,
  10. Wayne D Hall1,
  11. Gary C.K. Chan1,3
  1. 1 National Centre for Youth Substance Use Research, The University of Queensland, Saint Lucia, Queensland, Australia
  2. 2 School of Psychology, The University of Queensland, Saint Lucia, Queensland, Australia
  3. 3 NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence on Achieving the Tobacco Endgame, School of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  4. 4 National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia
  5. 5 Discipline of Psychiartry, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Tianze Sun, The University of Queensland, Saint Lucia, QLD 4072, Australia; tianze.sun{at}


Introduction The rising popularity of TikTok among adolescents may influence their awareness and perceptions of e-cigarette use via user-generated content. This study aimed to examine how e-cigarette/vaping-related videos are portrayed on TikTok.

Methods The nine most viewed hashtag based keywords were used to identify popular e-cigarette/vaping-related videos on TikTok (n=1000) from its inception (earliest upload date: January 2019) to November 2020. Five researchers independently coded the number of views, likes, user category and theme.

Results A final sample of 808 e-cigarette/vaping-related videos that met study criteria were included. Collectively, these videos were viewed over 1.5 billion times, with a median view count of 1 000 000 (range 112 900–78 600 000) and a median ‘likes’ count of 143 000 (range 10 000–1 000 000). A majority of the videos portrayed e-cigarette use positively (63%; collectively viewed over 1.1 billion times). Neutral depictions of e-cigarette use were viewed a total of 290 million times (24%) and negative depictions of e-cigarettes were viewed a total of 193 million times (13%). The video themes included (not mutually exclusively): ‘comedy and joke’ (52%; total of 618 million views), ‘lifestyle and acceptability’ (35%; 459 million), ‘marketing’ (29%; 392 million), ‘vaping tricks’ (20%; 487 million), ‘nicotine and addiction’ (20%; 194 million), ‘creativity’ (16%; 322 million) and ‘warning’ (11%; 131 million).

Conclusion Our findings illustrated that positively framed e-cigarette and vaping-related postings available without age restrictions on TikTok—a rising video-sharing platform that is popular among adolescents—have been viewed many times. Effective age restrictions are needed to reduce adolescents’ potential exposure to videos that portray vaping positively.

  • electronic nicotine delivery devices
  • advertising and Promotion
  • social marketing

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  • Twitter @TianzeSun, @Cwernlim, @CoralGartner

  • Contributors TS, GC and CL conceptualised the study concept and design. TS and CL guided data extraction analysis and cleaned and analysed the data. TS, JC, CT, LD, BC collected and coded the data. All authors drafted and revised the paper. GC supervised the study.

  • Funding TS holds a top-up scholarship from the NCYSUR, which received funding from the Department of Health, Australian Government.CL is funded by NHMRC Postgraduate Scholarship (APP2005317)GC is funded by a NHMRC Investigator Grant (APP1176137).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.