While the majority of consumers report feeling “safe” using vaping products, Google searches for “quit vaping” dramatically spiked at height of EVALI outbreak.
Though new cases continue to be reported, the outbreak of E-cigarette or Vaping product use Associated Lung Injury (EVALI) has steadily declined since initial reports surfaced last July. As of February 4, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports there have been 2,758 hospitalized cases of EVALI resulting in 64 deaths. Cases were found in all 50 states, but its spread peaked in September of last year.
While EVALI has primarily been linked to THC vaping products with dangerous additives purchased on the black market, the outbreak caused worried e-cigarette users to ask Google how they can “quit vaping.” According to researchers, the potential of illness caused vaping users to question their habit. Monitoring Google Trends data, scientists determined that search terms like “quit vaping” increased 3.7-fold during the peak of the EVALI outbreak.
“Then these searches then died down, so the timing of the outbreak was strongly associated with searches on how to get off of these products,” said Sara Kalkhoran, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and the lead author of the study.
Kalkhoran, who specializes an investigator at MGH’s Tobacco Research and Treatment Center, believes her team’s study, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, shows the need for stronger public health messaging on happing. Vaping users should understand the consequences, she added, “before something like this happens.”
Despite the brief scare, the majority of vapers feel relatively “safe” using e-cigarette products despite recognizing the habit as unhealthy. In a different study conducted by health data management firm Harmony Healthcare IT, researchers surveyed 1,800 Americans between the ages 18-38. Respondents most commonly said they started vaping to quit smoking cigarettes, and 77% said vaping is healthier than smoking cigarettes, with 39% labeling vaping as healthier than smoking marijuana.
Though 71% believed vaping was unhealthy, 79% still said they felt safe using vaping products. According to the survey, only 56% said they considered quitting due to EVALI with 36% admitting they would still vape even if they knew someone who developed an illness from vaping. Most of those surveyed stated they did not know the total number of people who became sick with EVALI from vaping.