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The New Product Watch: Successes and Challenges of Crowdsourcing as a Method of Surveillance

Nyman, Amy L. MA; Biener, Lois PhD

Journal of Public Health Management & Practice: January/February 2016 - Volume 22 - Issue 1 - p 65–67
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0b013e31829ee9dd
Original Articles

New smokeless tobacco (eg, snus and dissolvable tobacco products) and nontobacco nicotine products (eg, e-cigarettes) have emerged in recent years amid widespread speculation about locations of test marketing, toxic constituents, and consumer targeting. The New Product Watch was a pilot online monitoring system aimed at filling these information gaps by using a form of crowdsourcing: recruiting volunteers to visit local retailers and report their findings. With very little funding, the New Product Watch gathered county-specific data on new product availability in 19 states as well as trend data on product marketing and demand, and completed 2 rounds of product purchases and subsequent toxic constituent analyses. Data were collected over a 2-year period, between 2009 and 2011. Despite the successes, we found that this small-scale, volunteer effort was not a sustainable method for ensuring continuous, systematic surveillance of new product availability, marketing, and toxicity.

The objective of this study was to discuss the role of a pilot online monitoring system, The New Product Watch, which keeps eyes on the tobacco and nontobacco nicotine products and use crowdsourcing as a method of surveillance of new product availability, marketing, and toxicity.

Center for Survey Research, University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston, Massachusetts.

Correspondence: Amy L. Nyman, MA, Center for Survey Research, University of Massachusetts Boston, 100 Morrissey Blvd, Boston, MA 02125 (

This work was supported by contract HHSN261201100513P from the National Cancer Institute.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

The authors thank Dr Irina Stepanov and Dr Dorothy Hatsukami for their work on the analysis of product constituents and on the content of the educational presentation. They are also grateful for the helpful advice of an anonymous reviewer.

Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citation appears in the printed text and is provided in the HTML and PDF versions of this article on the journal's Web site (

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