AI Analysis of Reddit Posts Offers Insight into Public’s Concerns About E-Cigarettes
May 12, 2023
A recent study using artificial intelligence to analyze thousands of posts on Reddit has uncovered significant concerns people have with vaping. The public shares worries over the impact that e-cigarettes may have on respiratory, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, mental, sexual health, and sleep patterns. Users also worry about addiction, cancer, dental problems, and other health risks associated with vaping.
The study aims to gain a better understanding of the public’s natural conversations surrounding concerns associated with vaping e-cigarettes, according to Alexandra DeLucia, a doctoral candidate in computer science at Johns Hopkins University’s Whiting School of Engineering. The research was conducted by a multi-institutional team including members from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and was part of the JHU’s Center of Excellence in Regulatory Science and Innovation. The team hopes to leverage this data to inform new and more effective public health research and media campaigns.
The team looked to Reddit for detailed discussions about e-cigarettes. Reddit has approximately 55 million daily users and around 10 million daily posts. The study focused on Reddit and not social media platforms, like Twitter, because of its long, conversational format that allows for more extensive data gathering and analysis. Reddit conversations are conveniently organized into subreddits, making it easier for researchers to identify conversations related to vaping and ensure their relevancy when analyzing data.
The team also narrowed down the posts they analyzed to those that included the phrase “does ____ cause,” allowing them to hone in on the vaping discussions. This process helped them identify postings and discussions where users talked specifically about e-cigarette health risks. According to DeLucia, Reddit posters who discussed the issue primarily described respiratory, gastrointestinal, and cardiovascular concerns. Users also expressed concerns around addiction, cancer, dental health, and other health risks associated with vaping.
The researchers presented their findings at the annual meeting of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco in San Antonio.