Research Article

How Smokers Refer to E-cigarettes: an Examination of User-generated Posts from an Online Social Network, 2008-2015

Research Summary:

Introduction

A challenge in Electronic Nicotine Delivery System (ENDS) research is how to refer to these devices in ways that are meaningful to current or potential users. The objectives of this study were to: (1) describe the frequency of ENDS terms in a web-based smoking cessation intervention; and (2) determine whether terms vary by US geographic region and date.

Methods

Data were drawn from public posts between 2008-2015 on http://BecomeAnEX.org and limited to US users. We conducted “exact” and “fuzzy” searches to find posts containing ENDS keywords using custom Python scripts, and extracted geocoding data and date for each post. We examined counts and frequencies of ENDS terms by unique user, by unique user and region, and by unique user and date.

Results

We identified 1023 unique US website users who had written a post containing one or more ENDS keywords. Posters were majority female (79%), educated (78% attended at least some college), and had a median age of 47 years. Overall, 92% of ENDS posters employed the term “e-cigarette” or a derivation. Derivations of “vape” became increasingly popular in 2013, whereas “NJoy” and “blu” were employed by fewer than 2% of posters. We found no variation in frequency of ENDS terms by US region.

Conclusions

Researchers may have confidence that “e-cigarette” and “vape” are recognizable terms among US treatment-seeking smokers. Conversely, terms such as “ENDS,” commonly employed by researchers and public health advocates, are not used by smokers and may be an impediment to tobacco control research.

Implications

Researchers may have confidence that “e-cigarette,” and, to a lesser extent, “vape” are recognizable terms among US adult smokers referring to ENDS (including accessories, brand names, and actions). Conversely, terms such as “electronic nicotine delivery systems,” commonly employed by researchers and public health advocates, are not used by US smokers and may be an impediment to tobacco control research and practice.

Human Resources Today