UA researchers using social media to study e-cigs

UA researchers using social media to study e-cigs

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - E-cigarettes are a controversial product, but sales of them are soaring. Researchers at the University of Arizona are getting a $2.7 million grant to study e-cig use, by way of social media.

Study researchers say the results could even prompt regulations.

The leader researcher Dr. Daniel Zeng, a professor at the U of A's Eller College of Management, says they'll use online forums, Twitter and Facebook to find out why people are using e-cigarettes, what the health effect may be and even look at how companies are marketing them.

It's not uncommon to walk into a heavy plume of mist at The Vapr Lounge in midtown. Tommy Norris' family owns the shop. He says it's a booming industry to get into.

"A lot of the older people that are going through health problems are coming in, you know doctors are telling them to get off the cigarettes, and it's the younger kids that just turned 18. They don't want to start smoking, so they come here you know, it's a new cool thing," said Norris.

What's a better way to get their name out there than by using social sites like Facebook.

"Whenever we get new products in the shop, we always post it on Facebook and a lot of our regular customers follow us on there to see the new stuff we're getting in you know, seeing anything they want to come in and get," he said.

UA researchers from the College of Management want to monitor social media posts to find out why people use them, and their effects.

"What kinds of impact they have on their bodies and of course some messages from different parties like e-cigarette makers or their affiliates," said Eller College of Management Professor Dr. Daniel Zang.

This is a collaborative study done with the Mayo Clinic's Dr. Scott Leischow. The study could lead to the "R" word: regulation.

"We want to make it useful for the public health community because it's important for those in public health to access information in order to best intervene and best regulate these kinds of products," said Dr. Leischow.

But Norris says they're not worried about that at The Vapr Lounge.

"Regulation, bring them on. Regulations, we're not really worried about."

The grant is from the National Institutes of Health.

Copyright 2014 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.