The readability of electronic cigarette health information and advice: A quantitative analysis of web-based information

Albert Park, Shu Hong Zhu, Mike Conway

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background: The popularity and use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) has increased across all demographic groups in recent years. However, little is currently known about the readability of health information and advice aimed at the general public regarding the use of e-cigarettes. Objective: The objective of our study was to examine the readability of publicly available health information as well as advice on e-cigarettes. We compared information and advice available from US government agencies, nongovernment organizations, English speaking government agencies outside the United States, and for-profit entities. Methods: A systematic search for health information and advice on e-cigarettes was conducted using search engines. We manually verified search results and converted to plain text for analysis. We then assessed readability of the collected documents using 4 readability metrics followed by pairwise comparisons of groups with adjustment for multiple comparisons. Results: A total of 54 documents were collected for this study. All 4 readability metrics indicate that all information and advice on e-cigarette use is written at a level higher than that recommended for the general public by National Institutes of Health (NIH) communication guidelines. However, health information and advice written by for-profit entities, many of which were promoting e-cigarettes, were significantly easier to read. Conclusions: A substantial proportion of potential and current e-cigarette users are likely to have difficulty in fully comprehending Web-based health information regarding e-cigarettes, potentially hindering effective health-seeking behaviors. To comply with NIH communication guidelines, government entities and nongovernment organizations would benefit from improving the readability of e-cigarettes information and advice.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1
JournalJMIR Public Health and Surveillance
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Consumer health information
  • Electronic cigarettes
  • Health education
  • Health services
  • Tobacco use cessation products


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