Online Searches Reflect Popularity of e-Cigarettes

Online Searches Reflect Popularity of e-Cigarettes

Americans are increasingly conducting online searches related to electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), a new study finds.

Most of the searches are about how and where to get vaping products, not their health effects.

Online users conducted about 8.5 million searches for ENDS information on Google in the United States in 2014, HealthDay reports.

Searches are shifting from terms related to e-cigarettes, to vaping-related terms, the study found. This finding was especially true in coastal states and states where anti-smoking norms are stronger.

Nationally, e-cigarette searches declined 9 percent during 2014 compared with 2013. In contrast, vaping searches increased 136 percent, even surpassing e-cigarette searches. The percentage of ENDS searches related to shopping (such as “vape shop”) nearly doubled in 2014. Searches related to health concerns (such as “vaping risks”) or cessation (such as “quit smoking with e-cigs”) were rare, and declined in 2014. Overall, searches about safety concerns accounted for less than 1 percent of e-cigarette searches during the study period.

Between 2009 and 2015, online searches for e-cigarette information greatly exceeded searches for other alternatives to traditional cigarettes, such as nicotine gum and patches or smokeless tobacco.

“One of the most surprising findings of this study was that searches for where to buy e-cigarettes outpaced searches about health concerns or smoking cessation,” study co-author Rebecca Williams of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill said in a news release. “Despite what the media and e-cigarette industry might have you believe, there is little research evidence to support the notion that e-cigarettes are safe or an effective tool to help smokers quit,” she said. “Given that, we think it’s revealing that there were fewer searches about safety and cessation topics than about shopping.”

The findings are published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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