Toward automated e-cigarette surveillance: Spotting e-cigarette proponents on Twitter

Citations of this article
Mendeley users who have this article in their library.

This article is free to access.


Background: Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes or e-cigs) are a popular emerging tobacco product. Because e-cigs do not generate toxic tobacco combustion products that result from smoking regular cigarettes, they are sometimes perceived and promoted as a less harmful alternative to smoking and also as means to quit smoking. However, the safety of e-cigs and their efficacy in supporting smoking cessation is yet to be determined. Importantly, the federal drug administration (FDA) currently does not regulate e-cigs and as such their manufacturing, marketing, and sale is not subject to the rules that apply to traditional cigarettes. A number of manufacturers, advocates, and e-cig users are actively promoting e-cigs on Twitter. Objective: We develop a high accuracy supervised predictive model to automatically identify e-cig "proponents" on Twitter and analyze the quantitative variation of their tweeting behavior along popular themes when compared with other Twitter users (or tweeters). Methods: Using a dataset of 1000 independently annotated Twitter profiles by two different annotators, we employed a variety of textual features from latest tweet content and tweeter profile biography to build predictive models to automatically identify proponent tweeters. We used a set of manually curated key phrases to analyze e-cig proponent tweets from a corpus of over one million e-cig tweets along well known e-cig themes and compared the results with those generated by regular tweeters. Results: Our model identifies e-cig proponents with 97% precision, 86% recall, 91% F-score, and 96% overall accuracy, with tight 95% confidence intervals. We find that as opposed to regular tweeters that form over 90% of the dataset, e-cig proponents are a much smaller subset but tweet two to five times more than regular tweeters. Proponents also disproportionately (one to two orders of magnitude more) highlight e-cig flavors, their smoke-free and potential harm reduction aspects, and their claimed use in smoking cessation. Conclusions: Given FDA is currently in the process of proposing meaningful regulation, we believe our work demonstrates the strong potential of informatics approaches, specifically machine learning, for automated e-cig surveillance on Twitter.




Kavuluru, R., & Sabbir, A. K. M. (2016). Toward automated e-cigarette surveillance: Spotting e-cigarette proponents on Twitter. Journal of Biomedical Informatics, 61, 19–26.

Register to see more suggestions

Mendeley helps you to discover research relevant for your work.

Already have an account?

Save time finding and organizing research with Mendeley

Sign up for free