Most teens who vape aren't looking to quit smoking, a new study of Twitter suggests.
This finding belies Juul's claim that its e-cigarette is improving smokers' lives, the researchers said.
For the study, researchers analyzed more than 4,000 tweets and found that only 1% of Twitter users mentioned Juul as a way to stop smoking. Scarcely 7% mentioned any health benefit from vaping.
"Some people thought that my generation was going to end smoking," said researcher Ryzen Benson, a graduate student at the University of Utah Health Department of Biomedical Informatics. "For a while, we did see a large decline in smoking among teens and younger adults. But then Juul and other electronic nicotine-delivery systems became popular.
"This emergence is reflected in what we found being posted on Twitter," Benson said in a university news release. "Based on what we saw in people's tweets, they are clearly not using Juul as a smoking-cessation tool or as a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes."
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of teens using e-cigarettes has skyrocketed. Between 2017 and 2019, the number of high school kids who vape rose nearly 2.5 times, from almost 12% to 27.5%.
In 2020, that dipped to about 20% perhaps because vaping has been tied to over 2,500 hospitalizations and 55 deaths.
Juul is the most popular e-cigarette brand, accounting for 76% of the market.
Among 4,000 tweets the researchers found that 79% mentioned Juul or Juul-related products. Of these, 57% said they used Juul products themselves.
"I was expecting that few tweets would mention smoking cessation but wasn't expecting only 1%" senior author Mike Conway, an assistant professor of biomedical informatics at the University of Utah Health, said in the release. "I was also expecting there to be more discussion of health-related issues, which turned out to be largely absent from our dataset."
Among the tweets, many were from underage teens, the researchers found.
The researchers hope these data can help to tailor health messages to Juul users who use Twitter and other sites, Conway said.
The report was published Sept. 17 in the Journal of Medical Internet Research - Public Health and Surveillance.