Use of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) is increasing in the United States and mounting evidence suggests that many smokers are using the devices to quit cigarettes. The growing popularity of ENDS has given rise to “vape shops,” retailers that specialize in the sale of ENDS and their accessories. Despite a visible surge in vape shop openings, little research has described the neighborhoods in which they are located.
[Photo: Dr. Daniel Giovenco]
In a recent study published in Health & Place, Dr. Daniel Giovenco, Dr. Jane Lewis, and Interim Dean Dr. Cristine Delnevo, all from the Rutgers School of Public Health, located and geocoded New Jersey vape shops and examined demographic predictors of their locations at the census tract-level. Systematic online searches using Yelp, Google Maps, various social media sites, and search directories on websites dedicated to vaping identified 130 vape shops across the state. Statistical analyses found that vape shops were more common in areas with high tobacco retailer density, an expected finding given the appeal of ENDS to tobacco users. However, factors traditionally associated with the tobacco retail environment were negatively associated with vapor outlets. For example, vape shops were more likely to be located in areas where a large percentage of the population is non-Hispanic white and were significantly less common in census tracts with a high percentage of Hispanic and non-Hispanic black residents.
According to Dr. Giovenco, the study’s lead author, “Non-Hispanic whites have the highest rates of ENDS use, so vape shop locations are likely driven by consumer demand. Still, the presence of vape shops in a neighborhood may shape social norms about vaping and may influence use.” Current research indicates that emissions from ENDS vapor are substantially less risky than cigarette smoke. Giovenco added, “Differences in the promotion of lower risk tobacco products across communities could exacerbate existing health disparities. If ENDS are ultimately found to pose less health risks compared to smoking and help smokers quit, the implications for individual and public health benefit could be great.”
The authors acknowledge that many traditional tobacco retailers also sell ENDS (e.g., convenience stores), but were not included in this study. They argue that these retailers simultaneously sell combustible tobacco, obfuscating messages about ENDS’ role in smoking cessation and harm reduction. Furthermore, owners and employees in these retail locations may not promote ENDS as strongly or as knowledgably as vape shop owners, whose sustenance relies on vapor product sales. The authors conclude with a call for more research on the association between ENDS retail in neighborhoods and tobacco use behaviors.
Full article can be found at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1353829216300570