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Nicotine Tob Res. 2018 Jul 9;20(8):1015-1019. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntx170.

Content Analysis of US News Stories About E-Cigarettes in 2015.

Author information

Department of Health Education & Behavioral Science, Center for Tobacco Studies, Rutgers School of Public Health, Piscataway, NJ.
Department of Sociomedical Sciences, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, New York, NY.
Department of Medicine, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ.



Coverage of e-cigarettes in the news media may shape public perceptions about them but little is known about such news content. This content analysis characterized discussion of e-cigarettes in leading print and online US news sources in 2015.


We searched Access World News and Factiva databases for e-cigarette-related news articles appearing in the top 30 circulating newspapers, 4 newswires, and 4 online news sources in the United States in 2015 (n = 295). Coders identified the presence of various e-cigarette topics (e.g. regulation), and benefit and risk statements.


Nearly half of articles (45.1%) focused primarily on e-cigarette policy/regulatory issues, although e-cigarette prevalence (21.0%) and health effects (21.7%) were common main topics. Concerns about youth were frequently mentioned, including the rise in youth e-cigarette use (45.4%), gateway to smoking potential (33.9%) and appeal of flavors (22.4%). Youth e-cigarette prevalence was more frequently mentioned than adult prevalence in articles discussing FDA regulation (61% vs. 13.5%, respectively). News articles more frequently discussed potential e-cigarette risks or concerns (80%) than benefits (45.4%), such as smoking harm-reduction. Quoted physicians, researchers, and government representatives were more likely to refer to e-cigarette risks than benefits.


In 2015, rising rates of e-cigarette use among youth and policy strategies to address e-cigarettes dominated US e-cigarette news stories, leading up to their FDA regulation in 2016. Statements about e-cigarettes' potential risks were frequently attributed to trusted sources such as physicians, and outnumbered claims about their harm-reduction benefits. Such coverage may impact e-cigarette risk perceptions, use intentions and policy support.


In the year leading up to the FDA's Deeming Rule, concerns about youth use or potential use were frequently discussed in e-cigarette news. News articles more frequently discussed potential e-cigarette risks/concerns compared to potential harm-reduction benefits relative to tobacco cigarettes. While such coverage may inform the public about potential e-cigarette risks, they may also contribute to increasing perceptions that e-cigarettes are as harmful as tobacco cigarettes. E-cigarette risk and benefit statements were most frequently made by or attributed to researchers and physicians in articles, which is significant given that they may be particularly trusted sources of e-cigarette risk information.

[Available on 2019-07-09]

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