Effect of tobacco control policies on information seeking for smoking cessation in the Netherlands: A Google trends study

Troelstra SA, Bosdriesz JR, de Boer MR, Kunst AE.

PLoS One. 2016 Feb 5;11(2):e0148489.

Background

The impact of tobacco control policies on measures of smoking cessation behaviour has often been studied, yet there is little information on their precise magnitude and duration. This study aims to measure the magnitude and timing of the impact of Dutch tobacco control policies on the rate of searching for information on smoking cessation, using Google Trends search query data.

Methods

An interrupted time series analysis was used to examine the effect of two types of policies (smoke-free legislation and reimbursement of smoking cessation support (SCS)) on Google searches for ‘quit smoking’. Google Trends data were seasonally adjusted and analysed using autoregressive integrated moving average (ARIMA) modelling. Multiple effect periods were modelled as dummy variables and analysed simultaneously to examine the magnitude and duration of the effect of each intervention. The same analysis was repeated with Belgian search query data as a control group, since Belgium is the country most comparable to the Netherlands in terms of geography, language, history and culture.

Results

A significant increase in relative search volume (RSV) was found from one to four weeks (21–41%) after the introduction of the smoking ban in restaurants and bars in the Netherlands in 2008. The introduction of SCS reimbursement in 2011 was associated with a significant increase of RSV (16–22%) in the Netherlands after 3 to 52 weeks. The reintroduction of SCS in 2013 was associated with a significant increase of RSV (9–21%) in the Netherlands from 3 to 32 weeks after the intervention. No effects were found in the Belgian control group for the smoking ban and the reintroduction of SCS in 2013, but there was a significant increase in RSV shortly before and after the introduction of SCS in 2011.

Conclusions

These findings suggest that these tobacco control policies have short-term or medium-term effects on the rate of searching for information on smoking cessation, and therefore potentially on smoking cessation rates.

Read more here.