They’re heating up: Internet search query trends reveal significant public interest in heat-not-burn tobacco products

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Abstract

© 2017 Caputi et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Heat-not-burn tobacco products, battery powered devices that heat leaf tobacco to approximately 500 degrees Fahrenheit to produce an inhalable aerosol, are being introduced in markets around the world. Japan, where manufacturers have marketed several heat-not-burn brands since 2014, has been the focal national test market, with the intention of developing global marketing strategies. We used Google search query data to estimate, for the first time, the scale and growth potential of heat-not-burn tobacco products. Average monthly searches for heat-not-burn products rose 1,426% (95%CI: 746,3574) between their first (2015) and second (2016) complete years on the market and an additional 100% (95%CI: 60, 173) between the products second (2016) and third years on the market (Jan-Sep 2017). There are now between 5.9 and 7.5 million heat-not-burn related Google searches in Japan each month based on September 2017 estimates. Moreover, forecasts relying on the historic al trends suggest heat-not-burn searches will increase an additional 32% (95%CI: -4 to 79) during 2018, compared to current estimates for 2017 (Jan-Sep), with continued growth thereafter expected. Contrasting heat-not-burn’s rise in Japan to electronic cigarettes’ rise in the United States we find searches for heat-not-burn eclipsed electronic cigarette searches during April 2016. Moreover, the change in average monthly queries for heat-not-burn in Japan between 2015 and 2017 was 399 (95% CI: 184, 1490) times larger than the change in average monthly queries for electronic cigarettes in the Unites States over the same time period, increasing by 2,956% (95% CI: 1729, 7304) compared to only 7% (95% CI: 3,13). Our findings are a clarion call for tobacco control leaders to ready themselves as heat-not-burn tobacco products will likely garner substantial interest as they are introduced into new markets. Public health practitioners should expand heat-not-burn tobacco product surveillance, adjust existing tobacco control strategies to account for heat-not-burn tobacco products, and preemptively study the health risks/benefits, popular perceptions, and health messaging around heat-not-burn tobacco products.

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Caputi, T. L., Leas, E., Dredze, M., Cohen, J. E., & Ayers, J. W. (2017). They’re heating up: Internet search query trends reveal significant public interest in heat-not-burn tobacco products. PLoS ONE, 12(10). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0185735

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