A study on Google search trends found that the majority of searches pertained to e-cigarette shopping while few related to smoking cessation or the health of vaping.
Electronic cigarettes have significantly increased in popularity over the past decade, leaving the public health community to play catch up in terms of trying to understand the motivations and habits of e-cigarette users. A study of Google search trends led by researchers from the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and San Diego State University as part of the Internet Tobacco Vendors Study shows a significant jump in the popularity of the words “vape” and “vaping,” and a decline in searches related to vaping health and smoking cessation, according to a new report published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
“The e-cigarette industry, the media, and the vaping community have promoted the notion that e-cigarettes are an effective device for quitting smoking, yet what we’re seeing is that there are very few people searching for information about that,” said the study’s senior author Rebecca S. Williams, MHS, PhD, researcher at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. “They are more commonly searching for terms like ‘buy,’ shop,’ or ‘sale.'”
In an attempt to better understand the rapidly changing landscape surrounding e-cigarette use, investigators analyzed Google searches related to electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) from 2009 to 2014. The data revealed that the number of ENDS-related searches is rapidly increasing with 8,498,000 searches in 2014 alone, up from only 1,545,000 in 2010. Vaping and vaping-centric terms are also starting to overtake e-cigarette as the popular way to describe ENDS. While a growing number of searches pertained to purchasing, less than one percent of searches in 2013 and 2014 related to quitting smoking a traditional combustible cigarette. Only three percent of all ENDS searches in 2013 and two percent in 2014 included terms searching for health information (e.g., “e-cigarette risks” or “is vaping healthy”).