A new form of nicotine retailers: a systematic review of the sales and marketing practices of vape shops

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Abstract

Objective

Retailers that primarily or exclusively sell electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) or vaping products represent a new category of tobacco retailer. We sought to identify (a) how vape shops can be identified and (b) sales and marketing practices of vape shops.

Data sources

A medical librarian iteratively developed a search strategy and in February 2017 searched seven academic databases (ABI/INFORM Complete, ECONLit, Embase, Entrepreneurship, PsycINFO, PubMed/MEDLINE and Scopus). We hand searched Tobacco Regulatory Science and Tobacco Prevention & Cessation.

Study selection

We used dual, independent screening. Records were eligible if published in 2010 or later, were peer-reviewed journal articles and focused on vape shops.

Data extraction

We used dual, independent data abstraction and assessed risk of bias. Of the 3605 records identified, 22 were included.

Data synthesis

We conducted a narrative systematic review. Researchers relied heavily on Yelp to identify vape shops. Vape shop owners use innovative marketing strategies that sometimes diverge from those of traditional tobacco retailers. Vape shop staff believe strongly that their products are effective harm-reduction products. Vape shops were more common in areas with more White residents.

Conclusions

Vape shops represent a new type of retailer for tobacco products. Vape shops have potential to promote e-cigarettes for smoking cessation but also sometimes provide inaccurate information and mislabelled products. Given their spatial patterning, vape shops may perpetuate inequities in tobacco use. The growing literature on vape shops is complicated by researchers using different definitions of vape shops (eg, exclusively selling e-cigarettes vs also selling traditional tobacco products).

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