A new and creative vaping study conducted by University of San Diego researcher John W. Ayers yielded very interesting results. The study results were published in the journal PLOS ONE. This study was actual a great idea and let’s tell you about it.
Much of the data that we collect is based on survey data. Mr. Ayers looked at recent surveys, or polls, and noticed what we all have noticed. And that is that polls and surveys do not always really tell us what is going on. Sometimes people tell a surveyor what they think they want to hear. So where can we find real, unvarnished data, opinions or even experiences? Mr. Ayers decided to look at social media. On social media what are people saying when they are expressing themselves without judgment?
Using an algorithm that was based on vaping and electronic cigarette related keywords, more than 3 million Tweets were from between 2012 and 2015 were mined. Using Tweets that related to reasons to vape, what they called rationale Tweets, SDSU found that 43 percent related they liked vaping because it helped them to quit smoking. Coming in second place was social image, for example if someone wanted a vape for status or because it looked cool. Next was the ability to vape indoors at 14 percent. The variety of e-juice flavors came in at 14 percent. The perceived safety came in at 9 percent. Finally, cost was 3 percent and agreeable odor 2 percent.
Why Expert Vaping Feels The Numbers Are Off
If we look at the data mining of social media that occurred here we see how different statements were interpreted. For example, if John Q Smith Tweets that he likes vaping because of all the different flavors available, that statement is then attributed to the reason why John Q Smith vapes. Or if someone Tweets how great their new mod looks, the algorithm likely sees that as a “rationale” Tweet and the person who Tweeted it will be counted as someone who took up vaping to look cool. If you vape, you see the problem. The fact that someone enjoys an aspect of vaping does not necessarily translate to why they do it.
So when you send an algorithm into the recesses of the internet looking for vaping related Tweets or Facebook posts, it is not distinguishing any context. Assuming that because someone posts a personal, particular enjoyment of one aspect of vaping does not define the origins of that individuals vaping experience. We now that the number of non-smokers that vape is very small. A 2013 study in England showed only 1% of vapers surveyed had never smoked.
In our community of vapers, once we become vapers and not smokers, the topic of cigarettes becomes rare. We discuss vaping and what we enjoy about vaping. So while we view the San Diego State social media data mining study as validating the idea that quitting smoking with vaping is a major motivating factor, we suspect that the 43% number is low. Great idea but we recommend SDSU work with the vaping community to refine the process.
Our hypothesis is simply based on how vapers behave post smoking as well as data showing how few non-smokers are vaping. We could speak of anecdotal experiences as well but unfortunately the personal stories and experiences of vapers seem to be regarded as inconsequential by the powers that be.