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Revisiting the Rise of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems Using Search Query Surveillance

Published:February 10, 2016DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2015.12.008

      Introduction

      Public perceptions of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) remain poorly understood because surveys are too costly to regularly implement and, when implemented, there are long delays between data collection and dissemination. Search query surveillance has bridged some of these gaps. Herein, ENDS’ popularity in the U.S. is reassessed using Google searches.

      Methods

      ENDS searches originating in the U.S. from January 2009 through January 2015 were disaggregated by terms focused on e-cigarette (e.g., e-cig) versus vaping (e.g., vapers); their geolocation (e.g., state); the aggregate tobacco control measures corresponding to their geolocation (e.g., clean indoor air laws); and by terms that indicated the searcher’s potential interest (e.g., buy e-cigs likely indicates shopping)—all analyzed in 2015.

      Results

      ENDS searches are rapidly increasing in the U.S., with 8,498,000 searches during 2014 alone. Increasingly, searches are shifting from e-cigarette- to vaping-focused terms, especially in coastal states and states where anti-smoking norms are stronger. For example, nationally, e-cigarette searches declined 9% (95% CI=1%, 16%) during 2014 compared with 2013, whereas vaping searches increased 136% (95% CI=97%, 186%), even surpassing e-cigarette searches. Additionally, the percentage of ENDS searches related to shopping (e.g., vape shop) nearly doubled in 2014, whereas searches related to health concerns (e.g., vaping risks) or cessation (e.g., quit smoking with e-cigs) were rare and declined in 2014.

      Conclusions

      ENDS popularity is rapidly growing and evolving. These findings could inform survey questionnaire development for follow-up investigation and immediately guide policy debates about how the public perceives the health risks or cessation benefits of ENDS.
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