BackgroundInformation and misinformation on the internet about e-cigarette harms may increase smokers' misperceptions of e-cigarettes. There is limited research on smokers' engagement with information and misinformation about e-cigarettes on social media.
ObjectiveThis study assessed smokers' likelihood to engage with-defined as replying, retweeting, liking, and sharing-tweets that contain information and misinformation and uncertainty about the harms of e-cigarettes.
MethodsWe conducted a web-based randomized controlled trial among 2400 UK and US adult smokers who did not vape in the past 30 days. Participants were randomly assigned to view four tweets in one of four conditions: (1) e-cigarettes are as harmful or more harmful than smoking, (2) e-cigarettes are completely harmless, (3) uncertainty about e-cigarette harms, or (4) control (physical activity). The outcome measure was participants' likelihood of engaging with tweets, which comprised the sum of whether they would reply, retweet, like, and share each tweet. We fitted Poisson regression models to predict the likelihood of engagement with tweets among 974 Twitter users and 1287 non-Twitter social media users, adjusting for covariates and stratified by UK and US participants.
ResultsAmong Twitter users, participants were more likely to engage with tweets in condition 1 (e-cigarettes are as harmful or more harmful than smoking) than in condition 2 (e-cigarettes are completely harmless). Among other social media users, participants were more likely to likely to engage with tweets in condition 1 than in conditions 2 and 3 (e-cigarettes are completely harmless and uncertainty about e-cigarette harms).
ConclusionsTweets stating information and misinformation that e-cigarettes were as harmful or more harmful than smoking regular cigarettes may receive higher engagement than tweets indicating e-cigarettes were completely harmless.
Trial registrationInternational Standard Randomized Controlled Trial Number (ISRCTN) 16082420; https://doi.org/10.1186/ISRCTN16082420.