Underage Juul use patterns: Content analysis of reddit messages

Yongcheng Zhan, Zhu Zhang, Janet M. Okamoto, Daniel D. Zeng, Scott J. Leischow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Background: The popularity of JUUL (an e-cigarette brand) among youth has recently been reported in news media and academic papers, which has raised great public health concerns. Little research has been conducted on the age distribution, geographic distribution, approaches to buying JUUL, and flavor preferences pertaining to underage JUUL users. Objective: The aim of this study was to analyze social media data related to demographics, methods of access, product characteristics, and use patterns of underage JUUL use. Methods: We collected publicly available JUUL-related data from Reddit. We extracted and summarized the age, location, and flavor preference of subreddit UnderageJuul users. We also compared common and unique users between subreddit UnderageJuul and subreddit JUUL. The methods of purchasing JUULs were analyzed by manually examining the content of the Reddit threads. Results: A total of 716 threads and 2935 comments were collected from the subreddit UnderageJuul before it was shut down. Most threads did not mention a specific age, but ages ranged from 13 years to greater than 21 years in those that did. Mango, mint, and cucumber were the most popular among the 7 flavors listed on JUUL’s official website, and 336 subreddit UnderageJuul threads mentioned 7 discreet approaches to circumvent relevant legal regulations to get JUUL products, the most common of which was purchasing JUUL from other Reddit users (n=181). Almost half of the UnderageJuul users (389/844, 46.1%) also participated in discussions on the main JUUL subreddit and sought information across multiple Reddit forums. Most (64/74, 86%) posters were from large metropolitan areas. Conclusions: The subreddit UnderageJuul functioned as a forum to explore methods of obtaining JUUL and to discuss and recommend specific flavors before it was shut down. About half of those using UnderageJuul also used the more general JUUL subreddit, so a forum still exists where youths can attempt to share information on how to obtain JUUL and other products. Exploration of such social media data in real time for rapid public health surveillance could provide early warning for significant health risks before they become major public health threats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number13038
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019


  • Electronic nicotine delivery systems
  • Minors
  • Social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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