- Rates of electronic cigarettes (or “e-cigarettes”) use among youth are so high that the Surgeon General declared them to be of “epidemic proportions” (A Report of the Surgeon General, 2012). If these rates go unchanged, e-cigarettes will likely be responsible for the creation of a new generation of combustible cigarette (or “cigarette”) smokers. Among youth, use of e-cigarettes as their first tobacco product was associated with more than four times the probability of ever use of cigarettes and three times the probability of current cigarette use (Berry, et al., 2019). Further, given the addictive nature of tobacco, three of every four teen smokers will still be smoking as adults, even if they intend to quit after just a few years (A Report of the Surgeon General, 2012). Since the introduction of e-cigarettes, there has been a debate within the public health community as to whether e-cigarettes create overall population health benefit by reducing the use of cigarettes and their subsequent health harms, or if they create overall harm by recruiting new (especially young) smokers and exposing them to untested chemicals. This thesis aims to study whether and how the news media landscape has changed as the rates of youth e-cigarette use have increased. The central question will be whether frames (the packaging and delivery of an issue) linked to the harm reduction position have lost ground to the more precautionary position that warns of potential harms from e-cigarettes. Since the news media is important to shaping public discourse and policy debate on any given topic, understanding the evolution of how e-cigarettes have been framed in the media can help shed light on current and potential future directions for public health action.
Key Words: e-cigarette, media, framing, epidemic, youth, public health, FDA, cigarette, vape, JUUL