Introduction: E-cigarettes are relatively new products that simulate the smoking experience. This descriptive study assessed changes in e-cigarette availability and promotions among retailers in 11 college communities in North Carolina and Virginia during a 1-year period.
Methods: During the spring of 2012 and 2013, observers completed assessments in 320 tobacco-selling retailers, including grocery and convenience stores, pharmacies, and tobacco shops. Assessors collected e-cigarette availability, advertising, price, and promotions.
Results: E-cigarette availability increased among retailers from 24.7% in 2012 to 59.9% in 2013. They were available in the form of disposables and reusable kits and were most frequently available in tobacco shops, convenience stores, and pharmacies. The average price for disposables was $9.70 (SD = 1.07) in 2012 and $9.61 (SD = 2.10) in 2013; the average price for kits was $39.58 (SD = 15.79) in 2012 and $32.59 (SD = 18.65) in 2013. The presence of interior advertising increased from 12.7% to 50.6% (p < .0001), and the presence of exterior advertising increased from 7.6% to 22.8% (p = .0002). Convenience stores with gas (16.4%-70.4%; p < .0001) and without gas (6.0%-48.4%; p < .0001) had significant increases in the presence of interior advertising. Convenience stores with gas also had a significant increase in the presence of exterior advertising (8.2%-33.3%; p < .0001). Only 3% of retailers offered price promotions.
Conclusions: Availability of e-cigarettes, including rechargeable kits and disposables, more than doubled during the study. The presence of interior and exterior advertising also significantly increased. Results underscore the need for further surveillance to understand how these environmental characteristics impact individual exposure and use of e-cigarettes.
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