A new study backed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products and the National Cancer Center Institute has been conducted at San Diego State University to better understand the use of e-cigarettes within the vaping community. What’s revolutionary about the study is the use of data from social media to glean insights on community behavior.

The Great Vape Debate

As the debate on the pros and cons of vaping continues, lawmakers have been quick to pass sweeping legislation to strictly regulate, if not squash, the vapor industry.

Those in support of vaping have strongly argued there is not enough research to justify these strict laws, and the little research in existence points to vaping as a safer alternative to smoking.

Ample scientific material on the long-term health effects of vaping won’t become available for years; but, in the meantime, researchers are seeking to understand current vaping behaviors. That’s where Twitter and other social media platforms come in.

A New Kind of Research

For decades, the most common method of conducting research relied upon receiving a grant or private funding, and then to set about gathering a panel of research subjects to draw upon. This was a time-consuming and challenging process, especially if you wanted to get an accurate representative sample.

Today, new research is being conducted with the help of social media sites such as Twitter. For example, the study completed by researchers at San Diego State collected more than 3 million tweets about vaping and looked at why people choose to vape.

Another important factor is that the research is not being done to serve a specific agenda. For instance, research conducted by the government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is often biased against what they classify as “negative behaviors,” including smoking and vaping.

By using publicly available data from Twitter and Facebook, it is easier for non-biased researchers to look at the results without being beholden to the parties sponsoring the study.

Your Tweets Matter

Anyone who engages in social media should be aware of the changing tide of research. Vapers who share their stories online via social media should know that there is a chance they will become a part of a larger study on vaping behavior in the future. For many in the vaping community, this sets a bar for the way they choose to talk about their vapor products online and how they want vaping to be perceived by the general public.

Researchers have also noted that even if it is impossible to keep the government from regulating vaping devices and products, their research will highlight the features that need to be examined more closely, and those that should be protected.

While research using Twitter and other social media data is a fairly new phenomenon for the vapor industry, with the reduced costs and fewer limiting factors involved in such studies, data mining social networks is likely to continue as the discussion and debate about vaping carries on nationwide and across the globe.