Analysis of symptoms and their potential associations with e-liquids' components: A social media study

Qiudan Li, Yongcheng Zhan, Lei Wang, Scott J. Leischow, Daniel Dajun Zeng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Background: The electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) market has grown rapidly in recent years. However, causes of e-cigarette related symptoms among users and their impact on health remain uncertain. This research aims to mine the potential relationships between symptoms and e-liquid components, such as propylene glycol (PG), vegetable glycerine (VG), flavor extracts, and nicotine, using user-generated data collected from Reddit. Methods: A total of 3605 e-liquid related posts from January 1st, 2011 to June 30th, 2015 were collected from Reddit. Then the patterns of VG/PG distribution among different flavors were analyzed. Next, the relationship between throat hit, which was a typical symptom of e-cigarette use, and e-liquid components was studied. Finally, other symptoms were examined based on e-liquid components and user sentiment. Results: We discovered 3 main sets of findings: 1) We identified three groups of flavors in terms of VG/PG ratios. Fruits, cream, and nuts flavors were similar. Sweet, menthol, and seasonings flavors were classified into one group. Tobacco and beverages flavors were the third group. 2) Throat hit was analyzed and we found that menthol and tobacco flavors, as well as high ratios of PG and nicotine level, could produce more throat hit. 3) A total of 9 systems of 25 symptoms were identified and analyzed. Components including VG/PG ratio, flavor, and nicotine could be possible reasons for these symptoms. Conclusions: E-liquid components shown to be associated with e-cigarette use symptomology were VG/PG ratios, flavors, and nicotine levels. Future analysis could be conducted based on the structure of e-liquid components categories built in this study. Information revealed in this study could be utilized by e-cigarette users to understand the relationship between e-liquid type and symptoms experienced, by vendors to choose appropriate recipes of e-liquid, and by policy makers to develop new regulations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number674
JournalBMC public health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 30 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Flavors
  • Nicotine
  • PG
  • Reddit
  • Social media
  • Symptoms
  • VG
  • e-cigarette
  • e-juice
  • e-liquid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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