Introduction: In 2017, the New Zealand (NZ) Government announced its intention to liberalize the sale and promotion of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), including permitting any outlet to sell ENDS. This research estimated the proportion of tobacco outlets selling ENDS prior to legislative change, documented ENDS point-of-sale (POS) marketing, and examined associations between ENDS availability and outlet type, area-level deprivation, study region, and proximity to a secondary school.
Aims and methods: After drawing a proportional random sample of 281 tobacco outlets from two NZ regions that included convenience stores, supermarkets, and petrol stations, we conducted observational in-store assessments to record ENDS product ranges and promotions. Data were collected between October and December 2017 and analyzed using descriptive statistics and regression modeling.
Results: Of tobacco outlets sampled, 22% sold ENDS; these were typically convenience stores (85%) and located in high deprivation areas (53%). Of stores selling ENDS, products were visible at POS in 89% of stores, including 15% with self-service displays and 15% with displays adjacent to children's products. ENDS advertising was present in 31% of the outlets and generally promoted ENDS as cheaper than smoked cigarettes.
Conclusions: Liberalizing access to ENDS could reduce harms caused by smoking; however, extensive use of POS promotions will reach children and young people as well as smokers. While reducing harm among smokers is important, policy makers also need to ensure that regulations protect children from ENDS promotions.
Implications: Careful regulation is required to ensure increases in ENDS availability are not accompanied by an increase in young people's exposure to ENDS marketing at the POS.
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