Influence of flavors on the propagation of e-cigarette–related information: Social media study

Jiaqi Zhou, Qingpeng Zhang, Daniel Dajun Zeng, Kwok Leung Tsui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Modeling the influence of e-cigarette flavors on information propagation could provide quantitative policy decision support concerning smoking initiation and contagion, as well as e-cigarette regulations. Objective: The objective of this study was to characterize the influence of flavors on e-cigarette–related information propagation on social media. Methods: We collected a comprehensive dataset of e-cigarette–related discussions from public Pages on Facebook. We identified 11 categories of flavors based on commonly used categorizations. Each post’s frequency of being shared served as a proxy measure of information propagation. We evaluated a set of regression models and chose the hurdle negative binomial model to characterize the influence of different flavors and nonflavor control variables on e-cigarette–related information propagation. Results: We found that 5 flavors (sweet, dessert & bakery, fruits, herbs & spices, and tobacco) had significantly negative influences on e-cigarette–related information propagation, indicating the users’ tendency not to share posts related to these flavors. We did not find a positive significance of any flavors, which is contradictory to previous research. In addition, we found that a set of nonflavor–related factors were associated with information propagation. Conclusions: Mentions of flavors in posts did not enhance the popularity of e-cigarette–related information. Certain flavors could even have reduced the popularity of information, indicating users’ lack of interest in flavors. Promoting e-cigarette–related information with mention of flavors is not an effective marketing approach. This study implies the potential concern of users about flavorings and suggests a need to regulate the use of flavorings in e-cigarettes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere27
JournalJMIR Public Health and Surveillance
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2018


  • E-cigarettes
  • Electronic nicotine delivery systems
  • Flavoring agents
  • Flavors
  • Information dissemination
  • Information propagation
  • Social media
  • Social networking
  • Social networks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health Informatics


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