Policy and Behavior: Comparisons between Twitter Discussions about the US Tobacco 21 Law and Other Age-Related Behaviors

Document Type


Publication Date



Tobacco 21, tobacco use, health communication, sentiment, age-restriction


To combat the e-cigarette epidemic among young audiences, a federal law was passed in the US that raised the minimum legal sales age of tobacco to 21 years (commonly known as Tobacco 21). Little is known about sentiment toward this law. Thus, the purpose of our study was to systematically explore trends about Tobacco 21 discussions and comparisons to other age-restriction behaviors on Twitter. Twitter data (n = 4628) were collected from September to December of 2019 that were related to Tobacco 21. A random subsample of identified tweets was used to develop a codebook. Two trained coders independently coded all data, with strong inter-rater reliability (κ = 0.71 to 0.93) found for all content categories. Associations between sentiment and content categories were calculated using χ2 analyses. Among relevant tweets (n = 955), the most common theme—the disjunction between ages for military enlistment and tobacco use—was found in 17.8% of all tweets. Anti-policy sentiment was strongly associated with the age of military enlistment, alcohol, voting, and adulthood (p < 0.001 for all). Opposition to Tobacco 21 propagates on social media because the US federal law does not exempt military members. However, the e-cigarette epidemic may have fueled some support for this law.


This article was published with support from the Open Access Publishing Fund administered through the University of Arkansas Libraries.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.