Background Three categories of e-cigarette brands have emerged within the US market: e-cigarette brands developed by cigarette manufacturers, brands acquired by cigarette manufacturers and brands with no cigarette manufacturer affiliation. In the absence of federal regulatory oversight of e-cigarettes, we assessed differences in e-cigarette products and sales practices across these categories.
Methods Brand websites for top-selling e-cigarette brands from each of these categories were examined in October of 2015 to compare website access restrictions, online sales practices and products sold, including e-cigarette model type (eg, ‘cigalike’ vs advanced systems) and options available (eg, flavoured, nicotine free).
Results Website access to brands developed by cigarette manufacturers was restricted to users aged 21 years or older, and one website required user registration. In addition, these brands were exclusively reusable/rechargeable ‘cigalikes.’ Limited flavour options were available for these products, and nicotine-free options were not sold. In contrast, brands acquired by cigarette manufacturers and brands with no cigarette manufacturer affiliation generally required website visitors to be 18, offered a nicotine-free option, and most offered disposable products and an array of flavoured products (eg, fruit/candy flavours).
Conclusions This exploratory study finds differences in e-cigarette products and sales practices across these three e-cigarette brand categories, with brands developed by cigarette manufacturers adopting a particularly distinctive product and sales strategy. Anticipated regulation of e-cigarettes in the USA may be influencing these product and sales decisions.
- Electronic nicotine delivery devices
- Tobacco industry
- Surveillance and monitoring
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