Background: The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently restricted characterizing flavors in tobacco products. As a result, ice hybrid-flavored e-cigarettes, which combine a cooling flavor with fruit or other flavors (eg, banana ice), emerged on the market. Like menthol, ice-flavored e-cigarettes produce a cooling sensory experience. It is unclear if ice hybrid-flavored e-cigarettes should be considered characterizing flavors or menthol, limiting regulatory action. Monitoring the public's conversations about ice-flavored e-cigarettes on Twitter may help inform the tobacco control community about these products and contribute to the US FDA policy targets in the future.
Objective: This study documented the themes pertaining to vaping and ice flavor-related conversations on Twitter. Our goal was to identify key conversation trends and ascertain users' recent experiences with ice-flavored e-cigarette products.
Methods: Posts containing vaping-related (eg, "vape," "ecig," "e-juice," or "e-cigarette") and ice-related (ie, "Ice," "Cool," "Frost," and "Arctic") terms were collected from Twitter's streaming application programming interface from January 1 to July 21, 2021. After removing retweets, a random sample of posts (N=2001) was selected, with 590 posts included in the content analysis. Themes were developed through an inductive approach. Theme co-occurrence was also examined.
Results: Many of the 590 posts were marked as (or consisted of) marketing material (n=306, 51.9%), contained positive personal testimonials (n=180, 30.5%), and mentioned disposable pods (n=117, 19.8%). Other themes had relatively low prevalence in the sample: neutral personal testimonials (n=45, 7.6%), cannabidiol products (n=41, 7%), negative personal testimonials (n=41, 7%), "official" flavor description (n=37, 6.3%), ice-flavored JUUL (n=19, 3.2%), information seeking (n=14, 2.4%), and comparison to combustible tobacco (n=10, 1.7%). The most common co-occurring themes in a single tweet were related to marketing and disposable pods (n=73, 12.4%).
Conclusions: Our findings offer insight into the public's experience with and understanding of ice-flavored e-cigarette products. Ice-flavored e-cigarette products are actively marketed on Twitter, and the messages about them are positive. Public health education campaigns on the harms of flavored e-cigarettes may help to reduce positive social norms about ice-flavored products. Future studies should evaluate the relationship between exposure to personal testimonials of ice-flavored vaping products and curiosity, harm perceptions, and experimentation with these products among priority populations.
Keywords: FDA; Twitter; e-cigarette; electronic cigarettes; ice flavors; infodemiology; public; public health; smoking; social media; tobacco; tobacco policy; vaping.
©Artur Galimov, Julia Vassey, Ellen Galstyan, Jennifer B Unger, Matthew G Kirkpatrick, Jon-Patrick Allem. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (https://www.jmir.org), 30.11.2022.