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Vape shop and consumer activity during COVID-19 non-essential business closures in the USA


Introduction Vaping and vape shops pose risk for COVID-19 and its transmission.

Objectives We examined vape shop non-compliance with state-ordered business closures during COVID-19, changes in their marketing and experiences among consumers.

Methods As part of a longitudinal study of vape retail in six metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs; Atlanta, Boston, Minneapolis, Oklahoma City, San Diego and Seattle), we conducted: (1) legal research to determine whether statewide COVID-19 orders required vape shops to close; (2) phone-based and web-based surveillance to assess vape shop activity in March–June 2020 during shelter-in-place periods; and (3) a concurrent online survey of e-cigarette users about their experiences with vape retail.

Results Non-essential business closure varied in timing/duration across states and applied to vape shops in California, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma (for a brief period) and Washington (Georgia’s orders were ambiguous). Surveillance analysis focused on the five MSAs in these states. Of 156 vape shops, 53.2% were open as usual, 11.5% permanently closed and 3.8% temporarily closed; 31.4% offered pick-up/delivery services. Among survey respondents (n=354, M age =23.9±4.6; 46.9% male, 71.8% white, 13.0% Hispanic), 27.4% worried their vape shop would close/go out of business during COVID-19; 7.3% said their vape shop did so. Few noticed increases in vape product delivery options (7.3%), discounts/price promotions (9.9%) and/or prices (9.3%). While 20.3% stockpiled vape products, 20.3% tried to reduce use and 15.8% tried to quit.

Conclusions Many vape shops were non-compliant with state COVID-19 orders. E-cigarette users were as likely to stockpile vape products as to attempt to reduce or quit using e-cigarettes.

  • electronic nicotine delivery devices
  • public policy
  • surveillance and monitoring
  • tobacco industry

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