Topics and Sentiment Surrounding Vaping on Twitter and Reddit During the 2019 e-Cigarette and Vaping Use-Associated Lung Injury Outbreak: Comparative Study

Dezhi Wu, Erin Kasson, Avineet Kumar Singh, Yang Ren, Nina Kaiser, Ming Huang, Patricia A. Cavazos-Rehg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Vaping or e-cigarette use has become dramatically more popular in the United States in recent years. e-Cigarette and vaping use-associated lung injury (EVALI) cases caused an increase in hospitalizations and deaths in 2019, and many instances were later linked to unregulated products. Previous literature has leveraged social media data for surveillance of health topics. Individuals are willing to share mental health experiences and other personal stories on social media platforms where they feel a sense of community, reduced stigma, and empowerment. Objective: This study aimed to compare vaping-related content on 2 popular social media platforms (ie, Twitter and Reddit) to explore the context surrounding vaping during the 2019 EVALI outbreak and to support the feasibility of using data from both social platforms to develop in-depth and intelligent vaping detection models on social media. Methods: Data were extracted from both Twitter (316,620 tweets) and Reddit (17,320 posts) from July 2019 to September 2019 at the peak of the EVALI crisis. High-throughput computational analyses (sentiment analysis and topic analysis) were conducted. In addition, in-depth manual content analyses were performed and compared with computational analyses of content on both platforms (577 tweets and 613 posts). Results: Vaping-related posts and unique users on Twitter and Reddit increased from July 2019 to September 2019, with the average post per user increasing from 1.68 to 1.81 on Twitter and 1.19 to 1.21 on Reddit. Computational analyses found the number of positive sentiment posts to be higher on Reddit (P < .001, 95% CI 0.4305-0.4475) and the number of negative posts to be higher on Twitter (P < .001, 95% CI -0.4289 to -0.4111). These results were consistent with the clinical content analyses results indicating that negative sentiment posts were higher on Twitter (273/577, 47.3%) than Reddit (184/613, 30%). Furthermore, topics prevalent on both platforms by keywords and based on manual post reviews included mentions of youth, marketing or regulation, marijuana, and interest in quitting. Conclusions: Post content and trending topics overlapped on both Twitter and Reddit during the EVALI period in 2019. However, crucial differences in user type and content keywords were also found, including more frequent mentions of health-related keywords on Twitter and more negative health outcomes from vaping mentioned on both Reddit and Twitter. Use of both computational and clinical content analyses is critical to not only identify signals of public health trends among vaping-related social media content but also to provide context for vaping risks and behaviors. By leveraging the strengths of both Twitter and Reddit as publicly available data sources, this research may provide technical and clinical insights to inform automatic detection of social media users who are vaping and may benefit from digital intervention and proactive outreach strategies on these platforms.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere39460
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Reddit
  • Twitter
  • e-cigarette
  • e-cigarette and vaping use-associated lung injury
  • sentiment analysis
  • social media
  • topic analysis
  • vaping


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