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US consumer interest in non-cigarette tobacco products spikes around the 2009 federal tobacco tax increase
  1. Catherine L Jo1,
  2. John W Ayers2,
  3. Benjamin M Althouse3,
  4. Sherry Emery4,
  5. Jidong Huang4,
  6. Kurt M Ribisl1,5
  1. 1Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  2. 2Graduate School of Public Health, San Diego State University, San Diego, California, USA
  3. 3Santa Fe Institute, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA
  4. 4Institute for Health Research and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA
  5. 5Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  1. Correspondence to Catherine L Jo, Department of Health Behavior, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 308 Rosenau Hall, CB 7440, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA; cjo{at}


Objectives This quasi-experimental longitudinal study monitored aggregate Google search queries as a proxy for consumer interest in non-cigarette tobacco products (NTP) around the time of the 2009 US federal tobacco tax increase.

Methods Query trends for searches mentioning common NTP were downloaded from Google's public archives. The mean relative increase was estimated by comparing the observed with expected query volume for the 16 weeks around the tax.

Results After the tax was announced, queries spiked for chewing tobacco, cigarillos, electronic cigarettes (‘e-cigarettes’), roll-your-own (RYO) tobacco, snuff, and snus. E-cigarette queries were 75% (95% CI 70% to 80%) higher than expected 8 weeks before and after the tax, followed by RYO 59% (95% CI 53% to 65%), snus 34% (95% CI 31% to 37%), chewing tobacco 17% (95% CI 15% to 20%), cigarillos 14% (95% CI 11% to 17%), and snuff 13% (95% CI 10% to 14%). Unique queries increasing the most were ‘ryo cigarettes’ 427% (95% CI 308% to 534%), ‘ryo tobacco’ 348% (95% CI 300% to 391%), ‘best electronic cigarette’ 221% (95% CI 185% to 257%), and ‘e-cigarette’ 205% (95% CI 163% to 245%).

Conclusions The 2009 tobacco tax increase triggered large increases in consumer interest for some NTP, particularly e-cigarettes and RYO tobacco.

  • Price
  • Public policy
  • Non-cigarette tobacco products
  • Surveillance and monitoring

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