• August 5, 2020

Location Matters

Where you buy your e-cigarettes may determine if you will be a successful quitter.

By Marina A. Murphy

The popularity of e-cigarettes these days means that you can buy them almost anywhere: online, in general retail or in specialist vape shops. But new research shows that where you buy your e-cigarettes may not only determine the price you pay for them or what selection you have to choose from, but also the likelihood that you will be a successful quitter—that is, whether you’ll be successful at quitting smoking if you are a smoker.

Scientists at the University of California conducted a two-year survey1 of vapers and concluded that those who buy their e-cigarettes from vape shops or online are far more likely to give up smoking than those who get their e-cigarettes in general retail. This proved to be true regardless of how heavy a smoker they had previously been, whether they had intended to give up smoking in the first place and their willingness to use medicinal products like nicotine-replacement therapies.

The researchers say that given the influence the place you purchase your e-cigarettes may have on your ability to quit, regulators should consider how the rules they make might impact smokers’ access to different options for vapor products. For example, in March this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said that it was going to ban the majority of e-cigarette flavors in general retail but not online or in specialist vape shops.

The question then becomes whether limiting the choices of vapers who shop in general retail puts these vapers at a disadvantage in terms of their likelihood to quit smoking, compared with those who buy in specialist shops or online (who have more choices).

The University of California study involved 1,600 vapers and was conducted between 2014 and 2016. During this time, researchers collected information on smoking and quitting behavior and primary choice of place of purchase.

Survey results revealed a number of differences between vape shop customers and retail customers. Vape shop customers were more likely to use open systems. Retail customers were more likely to use FDA-approved cessation aids. A total of 92.8 percent of vape shop customers used open systems compared to only 17.3 percent in retail customers.

Vape shop customers were also more likely to vape daily. More than half of vape shop customers were daily vapers whereas only one in five retail customers were daily vapers.

Previous studies found a correlation between daily vaping and using open systems with smoking cessation. This would seem to be borne out here, as vape shop customers were also more likely to have quit smoking. Among those smoking 12 months prior to the survey, smoking cessation rates were higher for vape shop and internet customers at 22.2 percent and 22.5 percent, respectively, than for retail customers at 10.7 percent.

The researchers point out that previous studies have depended mainly on data from retail stores, which accounted for only 30 percent of purchases in 2016. They say that further studies must therefore include a broader range of purchase channels.

Marina A. Murphy

Marina A. Murphy

Marina A. Murphy is head of scientific media relations at British American Tobacco.

  1. Researchers investigated a number of reasons why this should be the case. “A Comparison of E-Cigarette Use Patterns and Smoking Cessation Behavior Among Vapers by Primary Place of Purchase” Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(5), 724; doi:10.3390/ijerph16050724 []