Discussions of Flavored ENDS Sales Restrictions: Themes Related to Circumventing Policies on Reddit

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Jun 23;19(13):7668. doi: 10.3390/ijerph19137668.

Abstract

Objective: To examine conversations among JUUL users on Reddit related to restrictions on flavored ENDS and the shifting policy landscape.

Methods: Posts and comments (n = 166,169) between May 2019 and May 2020 on the subreddit r/JUUL were scraped using pushshift.io API. Keyword filters were used to identify texts discussing flavored ENDS products (n = 33,884 texts). These were further narrowed down to texts discussing flavor policy workaround strategies (n = 7429) and N-gram analysis was performed. Finally, findings from the N-gram analysis were triangulated through qualitative review of a separate sample of texts (n = 488) from the flavor policy-related posts and comments.

Results: Overall activity on the subreddit r/JUUL peaked around the time of the EVALI outbreak (September 2019) and when FDA issued guidance restricting flavored ENDS product sales (January 2020). The N-gram analysis revealed an active discussion of banned products one can "still get" or "JUUL compatible" alternatives, including specific brands, brick and mortar locations, and specific flavors. Ten dominant themes emerged from the qualitative review, with some posts containing more than one theme.

Conclusion: Many users turned to Reddit for information related to the shifting regulatory landscape concerning flavored ENDS. Discussions focused on both legal alternatives to banned products as well as illegal means of acquiring JUUL pods, including residual retail supply, online, and mail vendors.

Keywords: advertising and promotion; media; tobacco industry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Commerce
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems*
  • Flavoring Agents
  • Marketing
  • Policy
  • Text Messaging*
  • Tobacco Products*

Substances

  • Flavoring Agents

Grant support

Funding for this study has been provided by Truth Initiative.