News Release

Medical dramas influence thoughts on dangers from vaping, new Twitter analysis reveals

Peer-Reviewed Publication

University of Pittsburgh

Beth Hoffman, Ph.D.

image: Beth Hoffman, Ph.D. view more 

Credit: University of Pittsburgh

After three popular primetime medical dramas included storylines about health harms from using e-cigarettes, hundreds of people took to Twitter to comment – including some who said they planned to quit vaping because of what they saw on the shows. A new analysis led by University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health scientists and published in the Journal of Health Communication examines the tweets for insights into the use of television shows to share public health messaging.

Following the January 2020 episodes of New Amsterdam, Chicago Med and Grey’s Anatomy that each included plots involving adolescents with vaping-associated lung-injury, also known as EVALI, at least 641 tweets commented on the shows and e-cigarettes. Nearly half the tweets commented on the storylines’ realism and 23.1% expressed enjoyment of the storyline, though a sizeable minority commented that the shows weren’t realistic in part because they didn’t involve cannabis oil-containing e-cigarettes. About 12% of the tweets expressed knowledge about vaping and 4.4% mentioned behavior, including intention to quit vaping.

“Given the rapid increase in e-cigarette use among U.S. adolescents, it is vital for public health professionals to develop ways in which to effectively communicate the harms of vaping to young people,” said lead author Beth Hoffman, Ph.D., M.P.H., postdoctoral researcher at Pitt Public Health’s Department of Behavioral and Community Health. “Our analysis suggests that primetime television may be a powerful way to positively shape viewers’ knowledge about the dangers associated with e-cigarette use.”

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