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A Twitter-based study on the reach of a smoking cessation organisation and the social meaning of smoking

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Tobacco smoking is one of the leading causes of death worldwide and, while anti-tobacco movements have implemented many policies and regulations to prevent smoking uptake, every year approximately 207,000 teenagers in the UK start smoking. Much has been written on youth smoking initiation, but examining the perspectives of young people through their Twitter persona has thus far been under-researched.
The Twitter engagement of the smoking cessation organisation The Filter Wales is used as the basis of this study. This organisation is a leading youth-focussed tobacco control initiative in Wales. Through a Twitter collection program, 4.8 million tweets from 2180 sample members were collected. Novel big data methods are combined with traditional methods such as content analysis and analysis of discourse to determine the reach of smoking cessation programs and provide a better understanding of the social meaning of smoking and its association with other health risks.
Results show that the tweets and Twitter profiles can illustrate social inequalities between sample members and that the Filter has reached their target audience. The results further illustrate that the majority of tweets concern tobacco smoking and that for young people tobacco and e-cigarettes relate to personal behaviour while marijuana and shisha are more common in a social context. Important for the Filter Wales, the knowledge of smoking (and unhealthy co-behaviours) is present, but for young people, the positive short-term effects of unhealthy behaviour outweigh the long-term gains of a healthy lifestyle.
This thesis extends the large body of work by approaching smoking from a data-driven perspective which has not been done to this extent before. This thesis demonstrates how tweets provide unadjusted perceptions of smoking and uniquely shows how these young people can be better understood in their smoking habit.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Award dateJan 2018

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