New research suggests that last summer's spate of severe lung illnesses tied to vaping prompted many Americans to consider giving up e-cigarettes.
Online searches about how to quit vaping spiked after serious lung injuries among vapers started being reported, the study authors found.
As of January, more than 2,700 hospitalizations for vaping-associated lung injury had been reported in the United States. Sixty deaths in 27 states have been confirmed, with more under investigation, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Before these lung illness cases were connected primarily with vaping of marijuana and additives, many people who used nicotine-containing e-cigarettes were concerned, the researchers noted.
"We were curious whether this outbreak led vapers to consider stopping using e-cigarettes or increased people's desire to quit," said study author Dr. Sara Kalkhoran, an investigator in the Tobacco Research and Treatment Center at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
"We thought people might be going to the internet to look into ways to help them quit," Kalkhoran added in a hospital news release.
She and her team analyzed Google data and found that searches with terms such as "quit vaping" increased up to 3.7-fold during the lung illness 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," Kalkhoran said.
This suggests that public health officials and health care providers need to provide stronger messages about vaping, the researchers said.
Also, health care providers need to ask patients specifically about vaping, since "people who vape may not think of themselves as smoking. People are looking into quitting these products, so we need to be able to screen in a context where we can actually help them clinically and they don't have to go to the internet for information," Kalkhoran said.
The study was published recently in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.