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Nicotine Tob Res. 2020 Feb 13. pii: ntaa025. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntaa025. [Epub ahead of print]

From the Deeming Rule to JUUL-US News Coverage of Electronic Cigarettes, 2015-2018.

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Rutgers Center for Tobacco Studies, New Brunswick, NJ.
Department of Pediatrics, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ.
College of Health, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT.
Department of Medicine, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ.



News media may influence public perceptions and attitudes about electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), which may influence product use and attitudes about their regulation. The purpose of this study is to describe trends in US news coverage of e-cigarettes during a period of evolving regulation, science, and trends in the use of e-cigarettes.


We conducted a content analysis of e-cigarette topics and themes covered in US news articles from 2015 to 2018. Online news databases (Access World News, Factiva) were used to obtain US news articles from the top 34 circulating newspapers, four national wire services, and five leading online news sources.


The number of articles increased by 75.4% between 2015 and 2018 (n = 1609). Most articles focused on policy/regulation (43.5%) as a main topic, followed by health effects (22.3%) and prevalence/trends (17.9%). Discussion about flavor bans quadrupled (6.1% to 24.6%) and discussion of youth e-cigarette use was most prevalent (58.4%) in 2018, coinciding with an increase in coverage about JUUL. JUUL was mentioned in 50.8% of 2018 articles. Across years, articles more frequently mentioned e-cigarette risks (70%) than potential benefits (37.3%).


E-cigarettes continue to be a newsworthy topic, with coverage both reflecting numerous changes and events over time, and providing repeated opportunities for informing the public and policymakers about these novel products. Future research should continue to track how discourse changes over time and assess its potential influence on e-cigarette perceptions and policy changes.


E-cigarette news coverage in the United States increased between 2015 and 2018 and predominantly focused on policy and regulation. Notable spikes in volume were associated with some but not all major e-cigarette events, including the FDA's deeming rule, Surgeon General's report, and release of the National Youth Tobacco Survey data in 2018. Coverage of the 2018 National Academy of Medicine, Engineering, and Sciences report on the Public Health Consequences of E-cigarettes received minimal news coverage. The high volume in 2018 was driven in large part by coverage of the e-cigarette brand JUUL; over half of news articles in 2018 referenced JUUL specifically.


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