Background: E-cigarettes are purchased through multiple channels, including general retail, online, and specialty smoke and vape shops. We examine how e-cigarette users' primary purchase place relates to e-cigarette use and smoking cessation behaviors.
Methods: Probability-based samples of the U.S. population who were current e-cigarette users were surveyed in 2014 (N = 879) and 2016 (N = 743), with responses combined for most analyses. E-cigarette use and smoking cessation behaviors were compared across users' primary purchase place.
Results: Higher percentages of vape shop (59.1%) and internet (42.9%) customers were current daily users of e-cigarettes compared to retail (19.7%) and smoke shop (23.2%) customers (p-values < 0.001). Higher percentages of vape shop (40.2%) and internet (35.1%) customers were also former smokers, compared to 17.7% of retail and 19.3% of smoke shop customers (p's < 0.001). Among those smoking 12 months prior to survey, smoking cessation rates were higher for vape shop (22.2%) and internet customers (22.5%) than for retail customers (10.7%, p = 0.010 and p = 0.022, respectively), even though retail customers were more likely to use FDA-approved smoking cessation aids. The percentage of customers purchasing from vape shops increased from 20.4% in 2014 to 37.6% in 2016, surpassing general retail (27.7%) as the most likely channel in 2016.
Conclusions: E-cigarette customers differed in significant ways by channels of purchase, most notably in their smoking cessation behaviors. Previous population studies have relied mostly on retail channel data, which accounted for less than 30% of all products sold by 2016. Future studies of e-cigarette use should consider a broader set of channels.
Keywords: Marketing and regulation of nicotine-containing products; electronic cigarettes; internet; purchase channels; regulation; retail; smoking cessation; vape shops.