Tob Control 23:iii10-iii16 doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2013-051461
  • Original article

The availability of electronic cigarettes in US retail outlets, 2012: results of two national studies

Open Access
  1. Kurt M Ribisl1,2
  1. 1Department of Health Behavior, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  2. 2Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  3. 3Barker Bi-Coastal Health Consultants, Inc., Calabasas, California, USA
  4. 4Department of Economics, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA
  5. 5Health Policy Center, Institute for Health Research and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA
  1. Correspondence to Shyanika W Rose, Department of Health Behavior, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, CB 7440, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7440, USA; rosesw{at}
  • Received 27 November 2013
  • Accepted 28 February 2014


Background Since their introduction in 2007, electronic cigarette (‘e-cigarette’) awareness and use has grown rapidly. Little is known about variation in e-cigarette availability across areas with different levels of tobacco taxes and smoke-free air policies. This paper looks at US retail availability of e-cigarettes and factors at the store, neighbourhood and policy levels associated with it.

Methods In-person store audit data collected in 2012 came from two national samples of tobacco retailers in the contiguous US. Study 1 collected data from a nationally representative sample of tobacco retailers (n=2165). Study 2 collected data from tobacco retailers located in school enrolment zones for nationally representative samples of 8th, 10th and 12th grade public school students (n=2526).

Results In 2012, e-cigarette retail availability was 34% in study 1 and 31% in study 2. Tobacco, pharmacy and gas/convenience stores were more likely to sell e-cigarettes than beer/wine/liquor stores. Retail availability of e-cigarettes was more likely in neighbourhoods with higher median household income (study 1), and lower percent of African–American (studies 1 and 2) and Hispanic residents (study 2). Price of traditional cigarettes was inversely related to e-cigarette availability. Stores in states with an American Lung Association Smoke-Free Air grade of F (study 1) or D (study 2) compared with A had increased likelihood of having e-cigarettes.

Conclusions Currently, e-cigarette availability appears more likely in areas with weak tax and smoke-free air policies. Given the substantial availability of e-cigarettes at tobacco retailers nationwide, states and localities should monitor the sales and marketing of e-cigarettes at point of sale (POS).

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 3.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:

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