March 2, 2016

Andrew Brian Seidenberg

Andrew Brian Seidenberg

The public health challenges of e-cigarettes and cancer caused by tanning beds are the subjects of two separate papers co-authored by a doctoral student from the Department of Health Behavior at the University of North Carolina’s Gillings School of Global Public Health.

The student, Andrew Brian Seidenberg, MPH, conducts research on both tobacco control policy and skin cancer prevention.

The first paper, titled “Recommendations for U.S. public policies regulating electronic cigarettes,” was published online Feb. 5 by the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Other co-authors from the Gillings School include Elizabeth Orlan, doctoral student, and lead author Kurt Ribisl, professor, both in the Department of Health Behavior.

The paper responds to the increasing popularity of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) since their 2007 introduction in the United States. More young people now use e-cigarettes than conventional cigarettes, and many people use both products concurrently.

Dr. Kurt Ribisl

Dr. Kurt Ribisl

Elizabeth Orlan

Elizabeth Orlan

Because the potential public health benefits of e-cigarettes are contingent upon related declines in traditional cigarette smoking, the article proposes a regulatory framework that addresses both the major public health challenges and opportunities raised by e-cigarettes.

The authors argue that the policies they propose will help minimize the negative impacts of e-cigarettes, such as youth initiation, and maximize potential benefits (i.e., smoking cessation).

Seidenberg’s second article, “Tanning bed burns reported on Twitter: over 15,000 in 2013,” was published online Feb. 18 by Translational Behavioral Medicine. The paper, for which he was lead author, discusses a content analysis of tweets containing keywords for tanning bed use and burning.

“Skin cancer incidence is rising in the U.S., and most cases are preventable,” Seidenberg says. “We found that Twitter data provided unique insight into tanning bed injuries and related behaviors that aren’t currently being measured through traditional public health surveillance.”

In 2013, more than 15,000 tweets described burns caused by tanning bed use. The month of March had the greatest number of tweets mentioning burning, which corresponds to peak indoor tanning season.

The sites most often reported burnt were the buttocks, face/head and chest/breast. Alarmingly, 200 tweets mentioned burns to the eyes/eyelids, suggesting eye protection was not being worn.

“These innovative studies address two products popular among young adults: e-cigarettes and tanning beds,” says Ribisl. “Both products are in need of additional regulation. Andrew’s studies will help provide the research base to guide policy makers interested in reducing the health harms associated with product use.”

Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or


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