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Identifying e-cigarette vape stores: description of an online search methodology
  1. Annice E Kim1,
  2. Brett Loomis1,
  3. Bryan Rhodes2,
  4. Matthew E Eggers3,
  5. Christopher Liedtke1,
  6. Lauren Porter4
  1. 1Public Health Policy Research Program, RTI International, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA
  2. 2Digital Technology and Society Program, Survey Research Division, RTI International, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA
  3. 3Primary Prevention Research and Evaluation Program, RTI International, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA
  4. 4Department of Health, Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida, Tallahassee, Florida, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Annice E Kim, Public Health Policy Research Program, RTI International, 3040 E. Cornwallis Road, P.O. Box 12194, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709, USA; akim{at}rti.org

Abstract

Background Although the overall impact of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) on public health is unclear, awareness, use, and marketing of the products have increased markedly in recent years. Identifying the increasing number of ‘vape stores’ that specialise in selling ENDS can be challenging given the lack of regulatory policies and licensing. This study assesses the utility of online search methods in identifying ENDS vape stores.

Methods We conducted online searches in Google Maps, Yelp, and YellowPages to identify listings of ENDS vape stores in Florida, and used a crowdsourcing platform to call and verify stores that primarily sold ENDS to consumers. We compared store listings generated from the online search and crowdsourcing methodology to list licensed tobacco and ENDS retailers from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

Results The combined results from all three online sources yielded a total of 403 ENDS vape stores. Nearly 32.5% of these stores were on the state tobacco licensure list, while 67.5% were not. Accuracy of online results was highest for Yelp (77.6%), followed by YellowPages (77.1%) and Google (53.0%).

Conclusions Using the online search methodology we identified more ENDS vape stores than were on the state tobacco licensure list. This approach may be a promising strategy to identify and track the growth of ENDS vape stores over time, especially in states without a systematic licensing requirement for such stores.

  • Electronic nicotine delivery devices
  • Non-cigarette tobacco products
  • Surveillance and monitoring

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