National Institutes of Health Spending Roughly $200,000 to Study Tweets on E-Cigarettes

An attendant demonstrates Japan Tobacco Inc.'s Ploom Tech smokeless tobacco device for a photograph during a media preview at the company's Ploom Shop Ginza in Tokyo, Japan, on Wednesday, June 28, 2017. By next week, smokeless devices by Japan Tobacco, British American Tobacco Plc and Philip Morris International Inc. will …
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The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is spending roughly $200,000 to study tweets about electronic cigarettes.

The Washington Free Beacon reports that the NIH gave $199,665 to the University of Kentucky to research hashtags and “follower-friend connections” of social media users who post online about e-cigarettes for a project called “Toward Fine-Grained E-Cigarette Surveillance on Social Media.”

Researchers say the study would look at “#retweets” and “#replies” of any tweets mentioning electronic cigarettes between July 2016 and June 2017.

“Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) have emerged as the main smoke-free alternative to regular cigarettes over the past few years,” according to the grant for the project. “While the ongoing healthy scientific debate about their long term health effects and their suitability for smoking cessation are important, in this project, we propose computational approaches toward fine-grained surveillance of specific themes, factors influencing message popularity, and demographic variations.”

Researchers say the study is necessary because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can use these findings to promote campaigns against e-cigarettes to social media users.

“For an emerging product like e-cigarettes, the asymmetric follower-friend connections and hashtag functionality in Twitter offer a convenient way to propagate information and facilitate discussion,” the study notes.

These government-funded studies researching why people use e-cigarettes to vape is nothing new.

The FDA and the National Cancer Institute funded a San Diego State University researcher’s study in March that analyzed three million tweets about e-cigarettes or vaping between 2012 and 2015.

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