Excise taxes and pricing activities of e-liquid products sold in online vape shops

Tob Control. 2022 Jun 13;tobaccocontrol-2021-057033. doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2021-057033. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Background: Although e-cigarette excise taxes have great potential to prevent the initiation and escalation of e-cigarette use, little information is available on pricing activities of online vape shops, and how well taxation is implemented during web-based sales remains unclear.

Objectives: We examine e-liquid pricing activities in popular online vape shops that sell nationwide in the USA and present how those stores charge excise taxes based on shipping addresses in states and local jurisdictions that have e-cigarette taxation in place.

Methods: We collect e-liquid sales prices from five online vape shops using web data extraction, standardise prices for e-liquid products, and present e-liquid price distribution in the whole sample and in each store, as well as variations of excise taxes across states/local jurisdictions and between stores. The price data were scraped from the store websites from February to May in 2021.

Results: We collected data on 14 477 e-liquid products from five stores. The average price of e-liquids is $0.25/mL, and the median price is $0.20/mL in our sample. E-liquid products sold online are very affordable and the average prices are lower compared with price estimates using other sources (eg, self-reports, sales data). In addition, online stores charge state excise taxes inconsistently and fail to comply with county-level or city-level excise taxes.

Conclusion: E-liquid products sold online are priced low, and stricter enforcement of e-cigarette excise tax is needed in online purchasing channels.

Keywords: Electronic nicotine delivery devices; Price; Taxation.