Social media is a recent source of health information that could disseminate new scientific research, such as the genetics of smoking.
The objectives were (1) to evaluate the availability of genetic information about smoking on different social media platforms (ie, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter) and (2) to assess the type and the content of the information displayed on the social media as well as the profile of people publishing this information.
We screened posts on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter with the terms “smoking” and “genetic” at two time points (September 18, 2012, and May 7, 2013). The first 100 posts were reviewed for each media for the time points. Google was searched during Time 2 as an indicator of available information on the Web and the other social media that discussed genetics and smoking. The source of information, the country of the publisher, characteristics of the posts, and content of the posts were extracted.
On YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, 31, 0, and 84 posts, respectively, were included. Posts were mostly based on smoking-related diseases, referred to scientific publications, and were largely from the United States. From the Google search, most results were scientific databases. Six scientific publications referred to within the Google search were also retrieved on either YouTube or Twitter.
Despite the importance of public understanding of smoking and genetics, and the high use of social media, little information on this topic is actually present on social media. Therefore, there is a need to monitor the information that is there and to evaluate the population’s understanding of the information related to genetics and smoking that is displayed on social media.