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  1. Advancing Regulatory Science

Enhancing Tobacco Surveillance Through Online Monitoring

Performer: Epidemico, Inc.

Principal Investigator: Nabarun Dasgupta

Project Duration: 9/14 - 9/17

Regulatory Science Challenge

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act granted FDA the authority to regulate the manufacture, marketing, and distribution of tobacco products to reduce the burden of tobacco-related diseases and death on the U.S. population.  Surveillance of tobacco use and related behaviors is an important tool for assessing FDA’s impact on public health. 

Traditional surveillance approaches rely on questionnaires administered to the public. Those approaches have limitations, including the time and cost to collect the information, the lag time for data processing, the potential for recall or reporting biases, and the challenges in understanding use patterns of new and emerging tobacco products. 

Project Description

This project will complement the existing surveillance activities of FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products by monitoring online social media.  By collecting near real-time data on tobacco perceptions, attitudes, beliefs, and use the project will help inform FDA’s understanding of trends in these areas.

Project Goals

The project’s goal is to develop and adapt tools that expand existing surveillance activities by gathering and analyzing data from public social media data sources. The project will:

  • Describe temporal patterns in the volume of social media mentions of various tobacco products
  • Describe the sentiment (e.g., positive, negative) associated with social media posts about tobacco products, including how sentiment varies across tobacco product categories
  • Characterize social media posts that reflect health perceptions and health outcomes, such as poisonings, illnesses, or related health effects associated with tobacco products


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