Tracking dabbing using search query surveillance: A case study in the United States

Zhu Zhang, Xiaolong Zheng, Daniel Dajun Zeng, Scott J. Leischow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Background: Dabbing is an emerging method of marijuana ingestion. However, little is known about dabbing owing to limited surveillance data on dabbing. Objective: The aim of the study was to analyze Google search data to assess the scope and breadth of information seeking on dabbing. Methods: Google Trends data about dabbing and related topics (eg, electronic nicotine delivery system [ENDS], also known as e-cigarettes) in the United States between January 2004 and December 2015 were collected by using relevant search terms such as "dab rig." The correlation between dabbing (including topics: dab and hash oil) and ENDS (including topics: vaping and e-cigarette) searches, the regional distribution of dabbing searches, and the impact of cannabis legalization policies on geographical location in 2015 were analyzed. Results: Searches regarding dabbing increased in the United States over time, with 1,526,280 estimated searches during 2015. Searches for dab and vaping have very similar temporal patterns, where the Pearson correlation coefficient (PCC) is .992 (P<.001). Similar phenomena were also obtained in searches for hash oil and e-cigarette, in which the corresponding PCC is .931 (P<.001). Dabbing information was searched more in some western states than other regions. The average dabbing searches were significantly higher in the states with medical and recreational marijuana legalization than in the states with only medical marijuana legalization (P=.02) or the states without medical and recreational marijuana legalization (P=.01). Conclusions: Public interest in dabbing is increasing in the United States. There are close associations between dabbing and ENDS searches. The findings suggest greater popularity of dabs in the states that legalized medical and recreational marijuana use. This study proposes a novel and timely way of cannabis surveillance, and these findings can help enhance the understanding of the popularity of dabbing and provide insights for future research and informed policy making on dabbing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere252
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Information seeking behavior
  • Marijuana
  • Search engine
  • Spatial analysis
  • Surveillance
  • Time series analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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