Valence of Media Coverage About Electronic Cigarettes And Other Tobacco Products From 2014-2017: Evidence From Automated Content Analysis

Abstract [from journal]

Introduction: As media exposure can influence people's opinions and perceptions about vaping and smoking, analyzing the valence of media content about tobacco products (i.e., overall attitude toward tobacco, cigars, electronic cigarettes, etc.) is an important issue. This study advances the field by analyzing a large amount of media content about multiple tobacco products across six different media sources.

Methods: From May 2014 to December 2017, we collected all English-language media items about tobacco products that U.S. young people might see from mass media and websites (long-form), and social media (Twitter and YouTube). We used supervised machine-learning to develop validated algorithms to label the valence of these media items. Using the labeled results, we examined the impact of product type (e-cigarettes vs. other tobacco products), source (long-form vs. social media), and time (by month) on the valence of coverage.

Results: We obtained 152,886 long-form media texts (20% with more than a passing mention), nearly 86 million tweets, and 12,262 YouTube videos about tobacco products. Most long-form media content opposed, while most social media coverage supported, the use of e-cigarettes and other tobacco products. Over time, within source valence proportions were stable, though in aggregate, the amount of media coverage against the use of tobacco products decreased.

Conclusions: This study describes the U.S. public communication environment about vaping and smoking for young people and offers a novel big data approach to analyzing media content. Results suggest that content has gradually become less negative toward the use of e-cigarettes and other tobacco products.