An Analysis of Arguments Advanced via Twitter in an Advocacy Campaign to Promote Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems

Ell Lee, Janet Hoek, Elizabeth Fenton, Ayush Joshi, Karen Evans-Reeves, Lindsay Robertson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Introduction
Advocates of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) increasingly use Twitter to promote liberal ENDS policies. “World Vape Day” (WVD) is an annual campaign organized by pro-ENDS advocacy groups, some of which have links to the nicotine industry (eg, via funding from the “Foundation for a Smoke-Free World”). In 2020, the campaign used dedicated social media accounts to disseminate WVD-branded images and campaign messages. We examined tweets posted as part of WVD 2020 to identify and analyze pro-ENDS policy arguments.

Aims and Methods
We extracted tweets posted between 26 May and 3 June 2020 that included the hashtag #WorldVapeDay. We used qualitative thematic analysis to code a random sample (n = 2200) of approximately half the original English language tweets (n = 4387) and used descriptive analysis to identify the most frequently used co-hashtags.

Results
Arguments related to four themes: harm reduction, smoking cessation, rights and justice, and opposition to ENDS restrictions. Tweets criticized individuals and groups perceived as opposing liberal ENDS regulation, and used personal testimonials to frame ENDS as a harm reduction tool and life-saving smoking cessation aid. Tweets also advanced rights-based arguments, such as privileging adults’ rights over children’s rights, and calling for greater recognition of consumers’ voices. Tweets frequently used hashtags associated with the WHO and World No Tobacco Day (WNTD).

Conclusions
The WVD campaign presented a series of linked pro-ENDS arguments seemingly aimed at policy-makers, and strategically integrated with the WHO’s WNTD campaign. Critically assessing pro-ENDS arguments and the campaigns used to promote these is vital to helping policy actors develop proportionate ENDS policy.

Implications
Social media platforms have considerable potential to influence policy actors. Tweets are easily generated and duplicated, creating an impression of sizeable and influential stakeholders. Evidence that the “World Vape Day” campaign was supported by groups with industry links, and targeted—at least in part—at WHO officials and those who follow the WHO World No Tobacco Day campaign, highlights the importance of critically reviewing such campaigns. Further research could examine how health advocates could engage in pro-ENDS campaigns to support balanced messaging and informed policy-making.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberntac237
Number of pages8
JournalNicotine & Tobacco Research
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2022

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