The Impact of Recent Tobacco Regulations and COVID-19 Restrictions and Implications for Future E-Cigarette Retail: Perspectives from Vape and Vape-and-Smoke Shop Merchants

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Mar 24;19(7):3855. doi: 10.3390/ijerph19073855.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Commerce
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems*
  • Humans
  • Nicotiana
  • Smoke
  • Tobacco Products*
  • Vaping* / epidemiology


  • Smoke