Perceptions and Sentiments About Electronic Cigarettes on Social Media Platforms: Systematic Review.
Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) have been widely promoted on the internet, and subsequently, social media has been used as an important informative platform by e-cigarette users. Beliefs and knowledge expressed on social media platforms have largely influenced e-cigarette uptake, the decision to switch from conventional smoking to e-cigarette smoking, and positive and negative connotations associated with e-cigarettes. Despite this, there is a gap in our knowledge of people’s perceptions and sentiments on e-cigarettes as depicted on social media platforms.
This study aimed to (1) provide an overview of studies examining the perceptions and sentiments associated with e-cigarettes on social media platforms and online discussion forums, (2) explore people’s perceptions of e-cigarette therein, and (3) examine the methodological limitations and gaps of the included studies.
Searches in major electronic databases, including PubMed, Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health Literature, EMBASE, Web of Science, and Communication and Mass Media Complete, were conducted using the following search terms: “electronic cigarettes,” “electronic vaporizer,” “electronic nicotine,” and “electronic nicotine delivery systems” combined with “internet,” “social media,” and “internet use.” The studies were selected if they examined participants’ perceptions and sentiments of e-cigarettes on online forums or social media platforms during the 2007-2017 period.
A total of 21 articles were included. A total of 20 different social media platforms and online discussion forums were identified. A real-time snapshot and characteristics of sentiments, personal experience, and perceptions toward e-cigarettes on social media platforms and online forums were identified. Common topics regarding e-cigarettes included positive and negative health effects, testimony by current users, potential risks, benefits, regulations associated with e-cigarettes, and attitude toward them as smoking cessation aids.
Although perceptions among social media users were mixed, there were more positive sentiments expressed than negative ones. This study particularly adds to our understanding of current trends in the popularity of and attitude toward e-cigarettes among social media users. In addition, this study identified conflicting perceptions about e-cigarettes among social media users. This suggests that accurate and up-to-date information on the benefits and risks of e-cigarettes needs to be disseminated to current and potential e-cigarette users via social media platforms, which can serve as important educational channels. Future research can explore the efficacy of social media-based interventions that deliver appropriate information (eg, general facts, benefits, and risks) about e-cigarettes.