Background: Tobacco regulations and COVID-19 state orders have substantially impacted vape retail. This study assessed vape retailers' perspectives regarding regulations and future retail activities.
Methods: In March-June 2021, 60 owners or managers of vape or vape-and-smoke shops (n = 34 vs. n = 26) in six US metropolitan areas completed an online survey assessing: (1) current and future promotional strategies and product offerings; and (2) experiences with federal minimum legal sales age (T21) policies, the federal flavored e-cigarette ban, and COVID-19-related orders. Quantitative data were analyzed descriptively; qualitative responses to open-ended questions were thematically analyzed.
Results: Most participants had websites (65.0%), used social media for promotion (71.7%), offered curbside pickup (51.7%), and sold CBD (e.g., 73.3% vape products, 80.0% other); many also sold other tobacco products. Knowledge varied regarding state/local policies in effect before federal policies. Participants perceived tobacco regulations and COVID-19 orders as somewhat easy to understand/implement and perceived noncompliance consequences as somewhat severe. Qualitative themes indicated concerns regarding regulations' negative impacts (e.g., sales/customer loss, customers switching to combustibles), insufficient evidence base, challenges explaining regulations to customers, and concerns about future regulatory actions.
Conclusions: Surveillance of tobacco retail, consumer behavior, and regulatory compliance is warranted as policies regarding nicotine and cannabis continue evolving.
Keywords: COVID-19 orders; Tobacco 21; flavored e-cigarette ban; retail activities; tobacco regulations; vape shop; vape-and-smoke shop.