Introduction: Vape shops sell electronic cigarettes and related products such as e-liquids, which may contain nicotine. Direct contact with nicotine can lead to adverse health effects, and few regulations exist on how nicotine is handled in vape shops. This study examined how customers and employees come into contact with, and handle, nicotine-containing e-liquids in vape shops with the goal of informing potential future regulation of nicotine handling in vape shops.
Methods: Data were collected from 77 vape shops in the Los Angeles basin. Characteristics of the shops were documented by employee interviews and in store observations. Data collection was focused on shops located in areas with high concentrations of communities of interest; 20 shops from African-American communities, 17 from Hispanic communities, 18 from Korean communities, and 22 from non-Hispanic White communities.
Results: Half of the vape shops allowed customers to sample e-liquids with nicotine. Most of the shops (83%) provided self-service sampling stations for customers. A majority of shop employees (72%) reported that spills of e-liquids containing nicotine had occurred in the past. While 64% of the shops provided safety equipment, only 34% provided equipment for proper nicotine handling. Furthermore, 62% of shop employees reported handling nicotine without gloves or other safety equipment.
Conclusions: Regulation on the handling of nicotine by customers and vape shop employees is important to prevent unsafe practices and subsequent injury. The frequent occurrence of spills and limited availability of safety equipment in vape shops highlights the need for the creation and enforcement of regulations to protect employees and customers. Appropriate safety training and equipment should be provided to employees to prevent accidental exposure to nicotine. Information on ways to safely handle nicotine should be communicated to vape shop employees and customers.
Keywords: E-liquids; Electronic cigarettes; Nicotine handling; Vape Shops; Vaping.