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Vape shop and consumer activity during COVID-19 non-essential business closures in the USA
  1. Carla J Berg1,2,
  2. Rachel Callanan3,
  3. Trent O Johnson4,
  4. Nina C Schliecher4,
  5. Steve Sussman5,
  6. Theodore L Wagener6,
  7. Mark Meaney3,
  8. Lisa Henriksen4
  1. 1Department of Prevention and Community Health, Milken Institute School of Public Health, The George Washington University, Washington, DC, USA
  2. 2George Washington Cancer Center, George Washington University, Washington, DC, USA
  3. 3Public Health Law Center, Mitchell Hamline School of Law, St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
  4. 4Stanford Prevention Research Center, Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, California, USA
  5. 5Departments of Preventive Medicine and Psychology, and School of Social Work, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA
  6. 6Department of Internal Medicine, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Carla J Berg, The George Washington University, Washington, DC 20052, USA; carlaberg{at}


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, Mage=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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  • Contributors CB, TOJ, NS, SS, TW and and LH created the assessment forms. CB and NS led vape shop data collection. CB led survey data collection. RC and MM led legal research. CB led the writing of the manuscript. All authors contributed to the manuscript writing and reviewed the final manuscript.

  • Funding This publication was supported by the US National Cancer Institute (R01CA215155-01A1; PI: CB). CB is also supported by other US National Cancer Institute funding (R01CA179422-01; PI: CB; R01CA239178-01A1; MPIs: CB, Levine), the US National Institutes of Health/Fogarty International Center (1R01TW010664-01; MPIs: CB, Kegler) and the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences/Fogarty International Center (D43ES030927-01; MPIs: CB, Marsit, Sturua). SS’s research activities are supported by a California Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program Award (TRDRP Grant #26IR-0016) and a National Cancer Institute and FDA Center for Tobacco Products Award (NCI/FDA Grant #U54CA180905). TW is supported by funding from the US National Institutes of Health and US Food and Drug Administration (R01CA204891, PI: TW; U01DA045537, PI: TW; R21DA046333, MPI: TW and Villanti). LH, NS and TOJ are also supported by other US National Cancer Institute funding (5R01CA06785, PI: LH; R01CA217165, PI: LH; P01CA225597, MPI: LH, Luke, Ribisl; R01 CA229238, PI: Malone) and the California Department of Public Health, California Tobacco Control Program (Contract #17–10041).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval This study was approved by the Emory University Institutional Review Board (IRB00097895).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.