MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Jon-Patrick Allem, Ph.D., M.A.
Keck School of Medicine of USC
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Would you briefly explain what is meant by JUUL?
Response: The JUUL vaporizer is the latest advancement in electronic cigarette technology, delivering nicotine to the user from a device about the size and shape of a thumb drive.
JUUL has taken the electronic cigarette market by storm experiencing a year-over-year growth of about 700 percent.
In our most recent study, we wanted to document and describe the public’s initial experiences with JUUL. We collected posts to Twitter containing the term “Juul” from April 1, 2017 to December 14, 2017. We analyzed over 80,000 posts representing tweets from 52,098 unique users during this period and used text classifiers (automated processes that find specified words and phrases) to identify topics in posts.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?
Response: We found that 1 in 25 posts, or 4 percent, was indicative of use of JUUL while at high school, middle school and even elementary school. These posts described young people talking about using JUUL on school grounds, in classrooms, in bathrooms, in the library, at recess and during gym.
For example, if the words “school,” “principal,” “teacher,” “elementary” or “recess,” among dozens of others, co-occurred in posts with the word “Juul,” we identified that post as reflective of a young person using JUUL or seeing someone use JUUL while on school grounds.
Additionally, while JUUL is marketed as a “smoking alternative” for adults trying to quit, we found relatively few posts containing phrases like “quit smoking.” One in 350 posts do.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: Thousands of students sneak JUUL on to school grounds to use during school hours.
Our findings suggest educators may be in need of training on how to identify JUUL in the classroom. School administrators may consider installing vapor detectors in bathrooms and classrooms to deter use of JUUL on school grounds.
Our study’s data source – posts to Twitter – may highlight a way parents can determine if their child is using JUUL. While we analyzed anonymized data, parents could follow their child’s account to monitor such activities.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?
Response: Future research should focus on the appealing characteristics of JUUL’s design in order to inform regulatory policies that will reduce appeal for adolescents while maintaining appeal for adults who could use JUUL in place of combustible cigarettes.
If JUUL’s ultimate goal is to create a smoking alternative for adults, designing a product that maximizes appeal to adult smokers while minimizing appeal to youth and nonsmokers would be important to consider in the future.
MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Response: Our findings highlight a clear benefit of using social media data in public health surveillance. Data from social media can serve as an early warning system informing public health researchers about new tobacco products or ways in which products are appealing to the public. By using social media data, researchers can document ways in which users experience new tobacco products, identifying their dislikes and likes in addition to the ways in which these products are marketed to consumers as promotions emerge in near real-time.
My co-authors and I have no conflict of interests to declare. Our study was supported by the National Cancer Institute and the FDA Center for Tobacco Products (CTP). The NIH or FDA had no role in study design, collection, analysis, and interpretation of data, writing the report, and the decision to submit the report for publication. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH or FDA.
Characterizing JUUL-related posts on Twitter
Drug and Alcohol Dependence,
Volume 190, 1 September 2018, Pages 1-5 Jon-Patrick Allem, Likhit Dharmapuri, Jennifer B. Unger, Tess Boley Cruzr
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