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Tobacco Trends: A Real-Time Sentinel for Tobacco Control Evaluations

Principal Investigator: John Ayers

Funding Mechanism: National Institutes of Health- Grant

ID number: 1 R21 CA173299-01

Award Date: 6/1/2013

Institution: San Diego State University Research Foundation

Evaluations of tobacco control initiatives may be confounded when multiple initiatives take effect in the same year; tracking smoking trends in real time would allow researchers to temporally associate population smoking with specific tobacco control initiatives, leading to better estimates of initiative effectiveness. No adequate data source for real-time population smoking surveillance exists; however, infectious disease epidemiology research indicates that aggregate Internet search queries may be used to estimate population heath trends. Investigators will analyze changes in smoking-related Internet search queries to identify population smoking trends and will use these trends to evaluate the effectiveness of two tobacco control initiatives. Specific aims are: (1) to model adult smoking trends in the U.S. using aggregate Internet search queries and previously validated behavioral measures; this includes identifying a criterion to validate against, selecting candidate queries, building a validation model and adjusting for potential bias; and (2) to use validated population smoking trend data and apply metrics retrospectively to evaluate the Great American Smokeout and New York's 2010 cigarette excise tax increase as a model for using these metrics. This evaluation involves using daily search query data to relate the timing of these measures to the timing of changes in smoking trends. The real-time smoking trends will be disseminated through a public web application, Tobacco Trends (www.tobaccotrends.org), giving investigators, sponsors, and policymakers the ability to rapidly evaluate tobacco control measures.

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