Online searches for information about electronic cigarettes are on the rise. But, most people want to know how and where to get the products rather than the health effects of “vaping” or how to quit smoking, a new study shows.
In 2014, online users in the United States conducted about 8.5 million searches for e-cigarette information on Google, and that number may have increased 62 percent in 2015, according to the researchers.
Between 2009 and 2015, online searches for e-cigarette information became more common nationwide, far exceeding searches for other alternatives to traditional cigarettes, such as smokeless tobacco or nicotine gum and patches.
Searches about safety concerns accounted for less than 1 percent of e-cigarette searches during the study period, and that percentage has declined over the past two years.
“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-leader Rebecca Williams said. Williams is a tobacco control expert at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
“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 researchers also noted that the term “vaping” has become more common than “e-cigarettes,” which may help boost companies’ marketing of the products.
“Labels do matter,” study co-author John Ayers, an Internet health expert at San Diego State University, said in a university news release.
“When you call it ‘vaping,’ you’re using a brand new word that doesn’t have the same historical baggage as ‘smoking’ or ‘cigarette.’ They [e-cigarette manufacturers] have relabeled it. Health campaigns need to recognize this so they can keep up,” he explained.
The study was published recently in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about e-cigarettes.