BACKGROUND: Online information on electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) may influence people's perception and use of e-cigarettes. Websites with information on e-cigarettes in the Chinese language have not been systematically assessed. OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to assess and compare the types and credibility of Web-based information on e-cigarettes identified from Google (in English) and Baidu (in Chinese) search engines. METHODS: We used the keywords vaping or e-cigarettes to conduct a search on Google and the equivalent Chinese characters for Baidu. The first 50 unique and relevant websites from each of the two search engines were included in this analysis. The main characteristics of the websites, credibility of the websites, and claims made on the included websites were systematically assessed and compared. RESULTS: Compared with websites on Google, more websites on Baidu were owned by manufacturers or retailers (15/50, 30% vs 33/50, 66%; P<.001). None of the Baidu websites, compared to 24% (12/50) of Google websites, were provided by public or health professional institutions. The Baidu websites were more likely to contain e-cigarette advertising (P<.001) and less likely to provide information on health education (P<.001). The overall credibility of the included Baidu websites was lower than that of the Google websites (P<.001). An age restriction warning was shown on all advertising websites from Google (15/15) but only on 10 of the 33 (30%) advertising websites from Baidu (P<.001). Conflicting or unclear health and social claims were common on the included websites. CONCLUSIONS: Although conflicting or unclear claims on e-cigarettes were common on websites from both Baidu and Google search engines, there was a lack of online information from public health authorities in China. Unbiased information and evidence-based recommendations on e-cigarettes should be provided by public health authorities to help the public make informed decisions regarding the use of e-cigarettes.
- electronic cigarette
- electronic nicotine delivery system
- internet-based information
- online health information