The number and type of e-cigarettes available online has soared within the past couple of years, with around 10 new brands and more than 240 new flavors every month, according to a study published in a special supplement of Tobacco Control.

The study is one of nine pieces of research on e-cigarettes to come out of the State and Community Tobacco Control Research (SCTC) Initiative, funded by the US National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health, and published in the supplement.

The researchers based their findings on a comprehensive analysis of online English language websites marketing e-cigarettes between two specific periods — May to August 2012 and December 2013 to January 2014.

They looked particularly at:

  • Brands (older and newer);
  • Models;
  • Flavors;
  • Nicotine strengths;
  • Ingredients; and
  • Product claims.

The first search identified 288 unique brands, 37 of which had disappeared by the time of the second search, which identified a further 215 new brands.

By January 2014, there were 466 different brands, each with its own website, and 7764 unique flavors. Nearly all brands offered tobacco and menthol flavors. The next most popular category of flavor was fruit, followed by dessert/candy, alcohol/drinks, snacks/meals.

In the 17 months between the two searches, there was a net increase of 10.5 brands and 242 new flavors each month.

The Food and Drug Administration has recently categorized e-cigarettes as a tobacco product, so sales to minors will be banned. But this ban does not cover the internet, where up to half of the total quantity of e-cigarettes sold are purchased, the authors point out.

“The number of e-cigarette brands sold on the internet is large and the variety of flavors staggering,” they wrote.