Interest in electronic cigarettes in 5 mayor Spanish speaking countries in Latin America
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CEDES, Argentina
Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública, Mexico
University of South Carolina, Arnold School of Public Health, United States of America
University of Florida, Department of Health Outcomes and Policy, United States of America
Publication date: 2018-03-01
Tob. Induc. Dis. 2018;16(Suppl 1):A832
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E-cigarette use is spreading in Latin America both in adults and adolescents. However, little is known about how interest in them varies over time and across different countries. Countries have adopted different policies for e-cigarettes. When banned, consumers tend to use the Internet to search for and buy them. Google Trends is a publically available index of Internet search activity that has been used for generating public health insights. This study uses Google Trends analyses to assess variations in e-cigarette searches across 5 large Spanish-speaking Latin-American countries over the past five years.

We used Google Trends to assess the topic "electronic cigarette" in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, México and Perú; from June 2012 through June 2017. We selected these countries based on population size, tobacco use prevalence and legislation regarding e-cigarettes. We also searched for terms of specific brands among the top 25 e-cigarette related searches in the five countries.

Searches regarding e-cigarettes have increased over the last five years in all 5 countries. There are clear differences between countries. Argentina and Mexico, the two countries where e-cigarettes are banned have the highest frequency of searches, together with Chile that has the highest prevalence of tobacco use in the Region. It is noticeable a peak in searches in Argentina during May 2016, which is explained by national press coverage of the weak enforcement of the e-cigarette ban during this time period. Popular brands appeared in the top 25 related search terms and included general e-commerce sites, e-cigarette specific marketplace sites, and product manufacturer specific sites.

Identifying search trends around e-cigarettes can enhance the evidence base for the changes in the public perceptions of e-cigarettes in Latin America. Comparisons across countries with different tobacco control strategies could be important for understanding how to regulate this emerging product.